Researchers: Chris Henry Suffered From Degenerative Brain Damage Before Death
Most stories don’t really have an effect on me, even if there is a criminal aspect to them. The stories that do get to me are the ones involving death.
It isn’t like a 6 game suspension or a couple of years in prison. There is no coming back from dying.
In our society there is a lot of senseless death. When I think about a situation like that of Chris Henry, it still makes me sick to my stomach even today. It was so avoidable, all you can do is shake your head and ask “why?”
I try to emphasize that young people think about every action you make, because one wrong move — your life could be over and you don’t get a second chance.
New information is coming out that Henry, like many other athletes, may have been suffering from brain damage that could be a cause for some of their irrational behavior. Here is the report from ESPN.com:
Chris Henry, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who died in a traffic accident last year, had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — a form of degenerative brain damage caused by multiple hits to the head — at the time of his death, according to scientists at the Brain Injury Research Institute, a research center affiliated with West Virginia University.
Repeated blows to the head are the only known cause of CTE, researchers say. Concussive hits can trigger a buildup of toxic tau protein within the brain, which in turn can create damaging tangles and threads in the neural fibers that connect brain tissue. Victims can lose control of their impulses, suffer depression and memory loss, and ultimately develop dementia.
While the links between CTE and behavior are still being studied, many of the former athletes diagnosed with this form of brain damage died under unusual circumstances. Ex-Steeler Justin Strzelczyk, for example, was killed in 2004 after experiencing hallucinations, leading police on a high-speed chase for 40 miles before driving his car into a tanker truck. In 2007, Benoit strangled his wife and 7-year-old son, then put Bibles next to their bodies and hanged himself. Tom McHale, a guard for three NFL teams remembered by teammates as smart and dependable, sank into depression and died of a multiple-drug overdose in 2008.
Unfortunately you can only test for CTE during an autopsy, and it is a very slippery slope in determining what type of effect it actually has on an individual while they are living.
We have to be careful about jumping to conclusions until further research is done.
You don’t want to pinpoint CTE as a cause for destructive behaviors unless your accuracy is very high.
The Chris Benoit incident is one of the most tragic and disgusting things I have ever covered, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining that behavior just by saying he had CTE.
Henry, who had a long history of run-ins with the law and other emotional off-the-field issues, had just been turning his life around at the time of his death, which is what made the story so sad.
Maybe this research can help prevent this type of tragedy from happening to someone else in the future, and the death of Henry and others won’t be in vain.