According to a forensic pathologist who studied Waters’ brain tissue, brain damage caused on the football field led to the suicide of the former NFL defensive back Andre Waters.
Bennet Omaul of the University of Pittsburgh told the New York Times that Waters’ brain tissue resembled an 85-year-old man and there were characteristics of early stage Alzheimer’s. Omalu believed the damage was related to many concussions Waters sustained during his 12-year NFL career.
Waters was 44 when he committed suicide in November.
“No matter how you distort it, look at it or bend it, trauma was a significant factor in Waters’ brain damage,” said Omalu.
Additionally the pathologist said the signs of depression that the family described Waters as displaying in his final years, was most likely caused by brain trauma. Had he lived, the former player would have been fully incapacitated within ten years.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports a strong link between serious head injury and future risk of Alzheimer’s.
Omalu began his research at the request of Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and professional wrestler whose career was ended by multiple concussions. After hearing of Waters’ suicide, Nowinski called Waters’ sister, Sandra Pinkney, and asked permission to do further investigation on her brother’s remains.
Nowinski chose Omalu because he had examined the brains of two former Pittsburgh Steelers players who were discovered to have brain trauma after sustaining concussions – Mike Webster, who suffered brain damage and died of heart failure in 2002, and Terry Long, who killed himself in 2005.