More than a year after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed the mother of his child and then killed himself, Belcher’s brain will be studied for the existence of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy.
According to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, Belcher’s body was exhumed on Friday from his Bay Shore, New York burial site.
Dr. Bennett Omalu, who was instrumental in the discovery of CTE, has said that he would “bet one month’s salary” that Belcher had CTE. Dr. Omalu also has expressed a belief that tests should have been performed for CTE at the time Belcher died. The Jackson County, Missouri medical examiner’s office disagrees, explaining that its duty is to determine cause of death only.
“If his brain had been examined [when he died], we’d have a better understanding of why he did what he did,” Dr. Omalu said. “We would have a better understanding about concussions and playing football, and we would advance the understanding of the science of all of this.”
Actually, all we would know is that Belcher had CTE. At a time when some doctors fear that anyone who has ever played tackle football has CTE, medical science still has a long way to go in order to connect CTE to specific cognitive disorders or, in Belcher’s case, homicidal and suicidal tendencies. While it was reckless for the NFL to disregard Dr. Omalu’s work, it would be equally reckless to assume that persons with CTE automatically become potential murderers.
The belated decision to check Belcher’s brain for CTE could be related to the pending concussion settlement. Benefits are available only to retired players with severe cognitive impairments. If it can be shown that Belcher had CTE, his one-year-old daughter would be eligible for the same compensation that the estates of Dave Duerson and Junior Seau could eventually receive.