Owen Thomas was smart enough to get into Wharton and affable enough to be named co-captain of Penn’s football team. Now, five months after the 21-year-old hanged himself having shown no signs of depression other than saying he was “feeling stressed,” he’s become the case study of how the sport’s repetitive physical contact can damage even young lives.
New findings by Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy director Dr. Robert A. Stern reveal mild stages of degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive concussions and/or sub-concussive brain injuries — despite concussion-free medical records. It marks the first case in an active college-football player.
“We will never truly know what led Owen to take his own life,” his mother, Rev. Kathy Brearley, said. “Knowing he had a brain disease that could have had an impact on his emotional state, cognitive functioning and impulse control, brings us bittersweet solace.”
It brings researchers some hope that “this will open up a lot of people’s eyes to take the repeated head injuries seriously. Concussions are only the tip of the iceberg.”
“I’m hoping this next year will bring a tremendous movement toward education, awareness and change to repeated sub-concussive injuries just like how the past year has brought amazing change in regards to concussions,” Stern told Metro.
“None of these findings point toward getting rid of football and other contact sports, but there’s an urgent need for changes to how the games are played. What’s so remarkable is Owens’ parents’ courage to take this news and want to do something positive with it.”
PHILADELPHIA. When a forensic pathologist tied former Eagle Andre Waters’ 2006 suicide to damage that left his brain tissue resembling that of an 85-year-old, an NFL statement said, “Whatever its cause, Andre Waters’ suicide is a tragic incident and our hearts go out to his family. Work over the past decade has contributed significantly to the understanding of concussions and advancement of player safety. We will continue with all these efforts and maintain our focus on player health and safety.” METRO