When former Bears safety Dave Duerson committed suicide and asked that his brain be studied, it attracted a great deal of attention to concerns that players who suffer from depression later in life are having their brains damaged on the football field. Less attention has been paid to Shane Dronett, a former defensive lineman who committed suicide in 2009, but a CNN report is shedding new light on how brain injuries in football affected Dronett’s post-football life.
Sanjay Gupta sat down with Dronett’s wife and daughter for a powerful account of the way Dronett’s mental deterioration began.
“He woke up in the middle of the night and started screaming and told everyone to run out of the house,” said Chris Dronett, Shane Dronett’s wife. “He thought that someone was blowing up our house. It was very frightening.”
Three years later, Dronett killed himself. Scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy studied his brain tissue and found that he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease found in people who have been subjected to multiple blows to the head.
Chris Dronett believes CTE caused her husband’s downward spiral, and she remembers how her husband would stay in games even after suffering concussions.
“Shane didn’t come out of games because he always said NFL players are so expendable,” said Chris. “And if you’re not out there, the next guy will be.”
Chris Dronett said that she knows there are still plenty of active players who have that same attitude, and who are opposed to rules changes designed to protect players from blows to the head.
“I know a lot of the players are against that,” she said. “But they’re young and they haven’t seen what I’ve seen.”