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Tragic death of college football QB may have ties to brain injury

The links between football, concussions and, ultimately, terrible brain conditions have been rapidly forming over the past decade. Concussions had always been an injury football players sustained; but not until recently were the serious consequences of the injury fully known. The sport has been under siege ever since these consequences became common knowledge.

Now, more and more teams are adopting careful approaches to treating players with head injuries. But the question remains: is enough being done to prevent concussions? And even if we do reach a tremendous safety level for concussions, there will still be people who suffer the brain injury — so then the question would become “have we done enough to advance treatment for concussions?”

These questions will be on the minds of many New York residents as the Jets and Giants prepare for the 2013 NFL season. Sadly, a far more tragic event may also trigger these questions: the death of a former Division II college football quarterback.

The 30-year-old former football player, Cullen Finnerty, was found dead in a wooded area in Michigan. He was disoriented and eventually died due to pneumonia and asphyxiation.

The death occurred back in May, but the coroner just released a report on Finnerty’s death. The coroner found that Finnerty had an elevated level of oxycodone in his system — and that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a debilitating brain condition associated with repeated hits to the head.

CTE is just one of a number of specific brain injuries that someone can suffer. They can occur because of a blow to the head from playing a sport, or from being in a car accident, or from some other type of accident. People who deal with these brain injuries suffer greatly; and if their condition occurred under negligent circumstances, the sufferer and his or her loved ones should consider their legal options.

Source: Associated Press, “Autopsy: QB died from penumonia, had brain disease,” David Eggert, Aug. 8, 2013