Dec. 16, 2014
On Nov. 30, Kosta Karageorge, a defensive lineman for Ohio State, was found dead of a gunshot wound — an apparent suicide. His family cited his multiple sports-related concussions (Karageorge was also a wrestler) as contributing to confusion and depression that may have led to his death.
If confirmed as a suicide, Karageorge’s death would be the latest in a series of suicides among current and former football players. As a result, players and advocates have increasingly linked depression and suicide to the long-term impact of repeat concussions.
In recent years, the NFL has struggled with a significant public relations problem around the issue of concussions. Among other things, former professional players have brought several lawsuits against the league, claiming monetary damages for negligence. CNN has a nice summary of the background and the steps the NFL has taken in response. The league now has a formal protocol to deal with concussions, acknowledging that these injuries have not always been taken seriously enough.
It is clear that concussions are dangerous and should be taken seriously. However, the explicit link with depression and suicide is much less clear. In short, the question of whether football has a real problem with depression and suicide, in addition to the other long-term health effects its players can suffer, is very much open for debate.