Tragic Details Found In NFL Player Dave Duerson's Autopsy Report

The 1985 Chicago Bears are considered one of the greatest teams in NFL history. This legacy comes in large part because of the dominance of the team's defense, known as the "46 Defense." According to NFL Films on YouTube, the Bears that year set a record for takeaways (54) and points allowed (198) on their way to a Super Bowl championship. The next year, the team broke its own points record by only allowing 187 in a season, as told by NBC Sports.

In both seasons, defensive back Dave Duerson was selected to represent the Bears in the Pro Bowl, Pro-Football-Reference reports. In 1985, Duerson was entering his third season in the NFL and was made a starter on the defense. The decision immediately paid off, as Duerson quickly became one of the best defensive backs in the league. In 1986, he would set a record for sacks by a defensive back with seven, the People Pill reports. The following year, he would be named the NFL's Man of the Year for his off-the-field activities. After his retirement following 11 seasons in the league, Duerson went into the business world, and by the turn of the 21st century, the former football star had netted around $63.5 million in profits.

Life seemed to be perfect for Duerson, making his suicide in February 2011 shocking and tragic. As his autopsy would show, Duerson suffered from a disease that has been found in many former NFL players.

Duerson wanted his brain studied

According to the People Pill, Dave Duerson was found dead on February 17, 2011, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He was 50-years-old and survived by his ex-wife Alicia Duerson and their four children. He sent a text message to his family telling them he wished for his brain to be studied at the Boston University School of Medicine. As told by Business Insider, (via the New York Times) Duerson's suicide note read, "Please see that my brain is given to the NFL's Brain Bank."

Duerson's family noted that the former NFL star had struggled both professionally and personally in the last four years of his life. His food distribution business had gone into receivership and his home was foreclosed on. His wife said her husband had trouble stringing words together and was having memory problems. Eventually, the two would divorce. In spite of that, Duerson still served on the committee that reviewed disability claims from retired NFL players.

According to Autopsy Files (via the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department), Duerson's fiancée had called the manager of the condominium he was living in that afternoon. She gave the manager permission to enter the home, though Duerson had reportedly wedged a chair against the door. It was then that 911 was called, and after the fire department pushed in the door, two Miami-Dade officers found Duerson's body in his bed with a .38 revolver near his left hand with one spent round.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Dave Duerson is diagnosed with CTE

The autopsy conducted by the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department confirmed suspicions that Duerson had died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. According to the office, the wound was located on the left mid-chest and despite the close range of the bullet, it did not exit his body. During the autopsy, the fatal shot was recovered in the right lower lobe of the lung. Besides the fatal wound, Duerson's body did not have any other trauma.

Three months after his death, neurologists at Boston University found what Duerson's family and friends had suspected — the former player had lived with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the People Pill reports. The neurodegenerative disease has been found in other former football players. According to Gluckstein Lawyers, repeated head trauma causes brain tissue to degenerate, and an abnormal protein called tau to build up. Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, depression, aggression, impaired judgment, and progression dementia.

Legacy reports many other NFL players suffered from CTE, including linebacker Junior Seau who, like Duerson, took his own life by shooting himself in the chest in 2012. Seau's brain was studied and diagnosed with CTE postmortem.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.