MUNCIE, Ind. — The family and friends of the late NFL star Dave Duerson have begun a program to help high school and middle school athletes in his hometown of Muncie who suffer head injuries.
The Dave Duerson Muncie Community Schools Athletic Safety Fund is designed to help them avoid chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition caused by repeated brain trauma. Duerson suffered from it before killing himself a year ago.
The Star Press reported Sunday the program will begin next school year. The fund will pay for baseline brain function tests for the athletes and help pay for post-concussion tests for those who cannot afford them.
“The goal of the Duerson fund is that we’re committed to doing things to help the student-athletes in Muncie,” said Bill O’Neil, a friend of the Duerson family. “One way or another, it’s going to happen.”
Duerson starred at Northside High School and Notre Dame before an 11-year NFL career in which he played on two Super Bowl champions teams (the Chicago Bears and the 1990 New York Giants) and was named to the NFL Pro Bowl four times during. He retired in 1993.
Duerson died a year ago after having made arrangements to donate his brain to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University’s School of Medicine. A researcher determined Duerson suffered a “moderately advanced” case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The study indicated the damage to Duerson’s brain affected his judgment, inhibition, impulse control, mood and memory.
Indianapolis doctors Patrick Kersey and Todd Arnold of Athletes Concussion Alliance will provide the baseline testing for the Muncie athletes.
“The baseline testing gives everyone a free opportunity to pretest,” Muncie Central football coach John Hochstetler said. “The post-test comes with a fee, and that’s where some of our youngsters run into challenges.
“We’re not going to turn anybody away. If an athlete is hurt, he can’t return to action until he passes the post-test. With head injuries, until you match your pretest, you aren’t qualified to play.”
The first year of the program will include all athletes at two middle schools and two high schools. Hochstetler said the hope is to include players in a youth football league in two years.