By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS – After earning two Super Bowl rings during his 11 years in the NFL, David Duerson suffered from stage-four Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that is linked to concussions.
But on February 17, 2011, Duerson was found dead at his Sunny Isles Beach, Florida home.
The Miami-Dade County medical examiner reported that Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Prior to taking his life, he sent a text message to his family saying he wanted his brain to be used for research at the Boston University of Medicine, which at the time was researching his condition.
Duerson’s brother, Michael Duerson, also sustained concussions as a teen and young adult. While playing basketball at IUPUI, he suffered a concussion that left him paralyzed on his left side for six months. By the time the team returned home, Michael Duerson was bleeding from both ears. Because the team was traveling, he did not get treated when the hit occurred.
As Michael Duerson got older, instead of getting better, the neurological and psychological side effects from his concussion got worse.
“I found myself removed from the workforce because the government ruled me as gravely mentally disabled,” Michael Duerson said.
Following the death of his brother David, Michael Duerson became determined to educate all students and parents about the dangers of concussions and the importance of detection. He started the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, Inc. – an organization that educates central Indiana students on concussion safety and awareness. The organization urged state lawmakers studying concussion issues to not ignore youth sports.
Because of Michael Duerson’s determination, there will soon be stricter protocol for athletes and coaches beginning in fifth grade, and not just in football. Current law only requires concussion training for football coaches – the new law extends to coaches of all sports.
Senate Bill 234 takes effect July 1. It requires head coaches and assistant coaches of athletes in grades five through 12, to complete a Department of Education-certified player safety education course.
For grades five through eight, parents of student athletes must be given information sheets about concussions, which they have to sign. Student athletes suspected of having a concussion will not be allowed to return to the sport until they provide a doctor’s note clearing them for play.
“We don’t want kids not participating in sports,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Terry Horner. “We do not need more couch potatoes. We want kids to be active, so sports are important, but safe sports is our goal.”
Because of the new law, Horner is confident concussion education will improve for parents and coaches and will increase player safety.
Coaches are required to be certified every two years. If there is a change in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention course, the coaches will be required to take the revised course.
Interscholastic coaches who complete the concussion training and coach in good faith will receive civil immunity. In the case that a lawsuit comes about from a student athlete’s head injury, the coach would be protected.
“I think we have a good start and we’re further down the road than we were,” Michael Duerson said. “I think Indiana has made the right move to put in place a protocol for the youngest of students.”
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.