Owen Thomas, a popular 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior lineman for University of Pennsylvania with no previous history of depression, hanged himself in his off-campus apartment after what friends and family have described as a sudden and uncharacteristic emotional collapse. A brain autopsy of Thomas has revealed the same trauma-induced disease found in more than 20 deceased NFL players, raising questions of how young football players may be at risk for the disease.
The latest article in the New York Times, “ Suicide reveals signs of disease seen in NFL ,” goes on to talk about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy , or CTE, a disease linked to depression and impulse control, whose only known cause is repetitive brain trauma. About 1.4 million children ages 14 to 18 play high school football every fall, and about three million others play in youth leagues at younger ages. Thomas’s parents requested that their son’s case be made public to educate other families about the possible and perhaps addressable risks of football at all levels.