Shane Dronett’s suicide linked to brain damage from football

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.”

24 responses to “Shane Dronett’s suicide linked to brain damage from football

  1. Can we just move on to the lawsuit phase please? We all what this jockeying about is for. Settle on a figure… start your dirtbag lawyers suing… and let’s get this latest money-grab going.

  2. And this is what Mr. Goodell and the owners are trying to do: Protect the players.
    They are looking out for the players health, but the players are unable to comprehend it.

  3. Brain damage can cause lots of problems, but the predominant one is changing names from James to Jimmy and becoming fixated on anything Viking.

  4. @citizenstrange:

    “I would bet that there is a much higher correlation between overwhelming debt and suicide than football related brain damage and suicide.”


    Not to mention prescription drug use. How much Vicodin, morphine, and goodness knows what else gets pumped into these guys over the years?

    Not to mention, what’s to say that they don’t have a problem adjusting to less fame, fortune, and the like? When the lights go off, you’re practically a nobody, and you have no way to put to use the massive amounts of testosterone that made you a great player to begin with, things probably start to look a lot different to you.

  5. Would have been nice to know what teams Dronett played for in his NFL career. Also, do concussions suffered in high school and college count?

  6. Shane Dronett got hit in the head for real. What happened to some of the regulars on here is still unknown.

  7. These guys need to wear bigger helmets and re-evaluate why they are playing this game. They need to get help for depression while they are still playing. It’s too late once they retire.

  8. Brain damage is a serious issue that no player or human should be subjected to for money. I know these players are paid handsomely, but a new brain is out of anyone’s price range.

  9. Protect the players like having them play more games in a season to increase owner profits?

    Roger “the Dodger” Goodell has done exactly nothing to help lineman get less injured.

    Except push for more games.

  10. That’s truly horrifying… but I don’t think it’s the concussion-protecting rules that people are opposed to… it’s the ones that prevent the QB from even being grazed in the wrong areas, or players being given freedom from even being touched while making a play…

    Especially when too many players abuse the penalty system as a secondary way for making plays – hamming it up or attracting contact for the sake of gaining yards through penalty, taking advantage of the fact that these rules were set in place only to protect their safety…

    And I also hope that just as much effort is being put into making safer equipment – equipment evolves and improves a lot for player safety… do you remember the giant shoulder pads? New age protection is miles and miles more effective

  11. Brain damage is quite a serious issue, we see it in the Viking fans proclaiming Superbowl victories for a team that ended up finishing in last place.

  12. Post-NFL career depression – what causes it?

    A pro football player pretty much goes his whole life with privileges, wealth and possibly, a sense of entitlement – very few ever know.

    Many lean on painkillers to keep the lifestyle going. A number engage in recreational drug use – some even the morning before the Super Bowl.

    Very few plan ahead financially. Some get grifted by money-savvy parasites. Entourage lifestyles can kill these guys. Others think owning 12 cars is a status symbol with no long term consequences. Some have remote relatives or people claiming to have known them in kindergarten wanting in. Then, poof – the big checks stop coming in — and in large part, no skillset to earn an equally lucrative income/lifestyle.

    Many also push it on the field to incredible extremes, often from self-motivation – and often from external motivation from his employer.

    I recall Raider OL Curt Marsh actually had to have the lower part of his leg amputated due to this. Jim Otto – another Raider OL – had his body completely trashed.

    Then, there’s the head injuries. Yes, they ARE a factor – but there are many factors to why these athletes feel depressed. Why do so many athletes NOT suffering from CTE also feel depressed after their moment in the sun passes?

  13. As a Certified Athletic Trainer, I have worked with athletes, high school thru Pros. I have watched the impact of head injuries. Kids who get their ‘bell rung’ ending up in ICU a week or two later with a cranial bleed. Kids in college hiding a concussion or taking painkillers to mask pain. This mentality in collision sportsmmuch change or we will continue to produce addicts and tragedies instead or legends and heroes.
    The owners are trying to change that to protect their investment in the players. Unfortunately, the players, coaches and agents, fail to recognize that often, suckin it up or playing tough doesn’t get a player to play more, it will over the longer term shorten player careers and jeopardize health.

  14. @iknowfootballandyoudont …

    You are certifiable. Goodell and the owners couldn’t care less about these head injuries. They’ve known about CTE for years but made no effort to address the problem until Congress started making noises about government intervention. Then, instead of focusing on testing ways to limit the number and severity of head injuries, Goodell began playing his fining games.

    His efforts last year did not result in any reduction in head injuries. By contrast, the NCAA’s first move in addressing a similar safety issue–helmets coming off–was to require a safety officer monitor players to ensure their chin straps are properly buckled. Then for the 2011 season, they are going to collect data to determine how many helmets continue to come off even if properly buckled. That is how you work to address problems such as head injuries–by taking logical steps and gathering data, not by giving the issue lip service solely to keep the government from getting involved.

    The league could do a lot to educate players, coaches, agents, etc., on CTE and make intelligent moves to reduce the number of traumatic brain injuries, but that would take genuine interest in player welfare. So far, Goodell has never indicated anything of the sort!

  15. Do away with football helmuts all together. I bet that would go a long way to reducing repeated head blows to NFL players.

  16. I love football, but I do not love that anyone suffers a head injury. It is a serious matter as others have already indicated. I too wish there were some way to protect the players more. Head injuries do increase the risk for depression along with a lot of other factors. Such as the end of a career. The risk for depression increases for anyone ending a career and it doesn’t matter if they are in the limelight or not.

    What I want to see is more psychologist put on staff and it be manditory for players to check in with them periodically during their career years and regularly prior to planned retirement or post forced retirement (i.e., injury). Depression is real, it is serious. However, just like the everyday Jane or Joe may need help coping with retirement, so may football players. Being a big strong player does not make them immune to real mental health problems.

  17. @draftnewbie2010 …

    That’s an excellent suggestion. More mental health services during their careers and after retirement (as well as more financial counseling services) whether provided through the league or the players’ association. A close friend of mine suffered a traumatic brain injury from a blow to the head that’s led to severe depression and addiction issues. It’s been a nightmare for his family and doctors trying to treat all the problems that started with that head trauma.

  18. you mean like man made global cause katrina? or japan? OH wait…..that would mean we, al gore, the communist part of the united states, other wise know as the democratic party, could stop those two natural disaster….OH wait! WE CANT.

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