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Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL

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Duerson is the powerful, tragic story of how one football champion's life first blossomed and then bottomed out after his NFL career ended. It is the story of a player whose fate propelled the conversations about the NFL and chronic brain trauma onto the national stage.

In many ways, Dave Duerson was the prototypical success story for a professional athlete. After a standout career at Notre Dame, he went on to become a four-time Prow Bowler in the NFL, winning Super Bowls with the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears and the 1990 New York Giants. Following his playing career, he grew his food-processing company into a $60 million enterprise. Duerson had a full family life, served on the board of trustees for his alma mater, and continued his involvement with football by working with the NFL Player Association. Then it all went wrong.

Dave Duerson committed suicide on February 17, 2011, by shooting himself in the chest. The preceding decade had not been kind. Duerson's mother passed away in 2003; in 2005, he was charged with spousal abuse. In 2006, his company, Duerson Foods, filed for bankruptcy, and in 2008 his 25-year marriage ended in divorce. He complained of headaches, memory loss, and confusion, and in his last texts to family, he requested that his brain be donated for research. May 2012 findings showed that Duerson did indeed suffer from the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The tragedy of Dave Duerson is that he is just one of many former athletes facing these conditions. Football players and hockey players at all levels are seeing their colleagues affected; former NFL linebacker Junior Seau's May 2012 suicide—also a gunshot to the chest—was a painful reminder that Duerson's story is not unique.

Duerson chronicles the early promising success of Dave Duerson after his NFL career, and then the last decade of decline as his personal, professional, and medical problems worsened. More than just the tragic story of one man, Duerson is a powerful reminder of the long-term health risks professional athletes face. The Chicago Tribune's powerful reporting brings these issues to the forefront of our national discussion on sports, entertainment, and health, while also shedding light on one man's struggle through his unresolved medical issues.


Title Duerson
Subtitle Triumph, Trauma and Tragedy in the NFL
Author Chicago Tribune Staff
Audience 01 General / trade
Title First Published 22 January 2013
Format ePub
Nb of pages
Reference no. 978-1-57284-410-0
Publication Date 22 January 2013
List Price $4.99

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Reader Comments

Reader comment | Oct 12, 2013, Shelly Bedell
Michael, I commend you for what you are doing here. My son is playing football at U-Indy in Indianapolis. It sure would be great to catch up with you and talk again someday. Blessings, Shelly Bedell, would have been Northside class of '77 had we not moved so my Mom could go to Notre Dame Law School. She put in a good word for Dave when it came to football while she was there. So sorry and also concerned for my own son. I thank God who puts His angels around him to protect him. e-mail me sometime!