The photo of Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge is heartbreaking.
He was found dead this week, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Before his death, Kosta had reportedly texted his mother to tell her that all of the concussions he had suffered playing football “have my head all (expletive) up.” His mother said Kosta had a few recent spells of extreme confusion.
The 22-year-old lineman’s brain will undergo an autopsy by a neuropathologist, who will look for signs of traumatic brain injury.
I have written extensively about sports and the danger of repetitive brain injuries, especially in young athletes. Multiple brain injuries—even those that are not counted as concussions—are linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is brain disorder, caused by the accumulation of tau proteins in certain regions of the brain. The proteins build up after repetitive head injuries. CTE has been found in several deceased NFL players who sustained serious head injuries during their careers.
There is a clear link between chronic head injuries sustained in sports and permanent brain damage.
We won’t know if Kosta Karageorge’s multiple concussions contributed to a brain injury until the coroner’s report is released. And there may never be definitive proof that his brain injuries contributed to his apparent suicide.
But we can learn from this tragedy. It’s time to demand that equipment manufacturers and sports organizations do more to protect football players and other athletes.
We cannot continue to subject young people to a lifetime of brain damage—or worse—for the sake of a game.