Former four-time Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson, who committed suicide Thursday by shooting himself in the chest, sent text messages to family asking that his brain be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition linked to more than a dozen deceased NFL players, The New York Times has reported.
Duerson's family has agreed to donate his brain to Boston University's medical school for its study of the degenerative disease, which has been tied to depression, dementia and occasionally suicide in the former players, according to the report.
"This is a tragic event," Dr. Robert Stern, a co-director of the research group, told The Times. "His wish will hopefully lead to additional scientific answers about this disease."
The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy is a collaborative venture between BU Medical School and the Sports Legacy Institute that's addressing what it calls the "concussion crisis" in sports.
The group has been at the forefront of research into head trauma in sports and received a $1 million gift from the NFL, which it has pushed for better treatment of concussions.
According to the center's website, use of the Brain Bank includes research into "the cause, progression, and characteristics" of the disease.
Duerson's body was found Thursday in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.
A native of Muncie, Ind., Duerson was a third-round draft pick by the Bears in 1983 out of Notre Dame and played 11 seasons in the NFL. He won Super Bowls with the 1985 Bears and 1990 Giants.
In recent years, Duerson had been among three union representatives on a six-person NFL panel that weighs disability claims from retired players.
According to The Times, the committee has faced criticism for the denials of claims related to diminished mental capacities stemming from football.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said as he arrived for labor negotiations Sunday that he didn't know details about Duerson's case.
"He's a good man," Goodell said. "It's sad."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.