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Report: Ex-Bear Dave Duerson shot himself in chest

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Former Bears safety Dave Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, NBC Chicago reported Saturday evening, citing the Miami-Dade County, Fla., medical examiner.

A separate call to the medical examiner’s office was forwarded to the Miami-Dade County police sergeant in command, Tracy Prellezo, who insisted he had no new information and that a public statement wouldn’t be made until at least 8 a.m. Monday. The medical examiner’s office had been closed since 5  p.m. Friday, Prellezo said.

An e-mail to Larry Cameron, director of operations for the medical examiner’s office, was not returned.

NBC Chicago reported that Duerson, 50, who was found dead at his Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., home Thursday night, left a text message to loved ones telling them he wanted his brain donated for NFL research.

Chris Nowinski, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, received a call from a friend of the Duerson family Thursday night, the television station reported.

Nowinski’s research of Duerson’s brain would take three to six months to determine the presence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), or what used to be known as ‘‘punch drunk.’’ The condition is linked to repeated trauma to the brain and can be marked by depression, emotional instability and erratic behavior, among a range of symptoms.

‘‘NFL players are at high risk for CTE,” Nowinski told NBC Chicago, adding that 13 of the first 14 NFL brains studied have shown CTE.

Duerson was a third-round pick of the Bears out of Notre Dame in the 1983 NFL draft. He became a full-time starter in 1985 and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times. In 1987, he was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka told the Sun-Times on Friday that Duerson had been having some financial problems.

‘‘I’m sure that was probably the biggest thing,’’ Ditka said. ‘‘That can put a lot of pressure on you, when things are going bad financially and you’re having family problems.’’

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