Tragedy struck the NFL again this week when Paul Oliver, a former defensive back for the University of Georgia and later for the San Diego Chargers, was found dead from an apparent suicide. Oliver’s death is the latest in a string of suicides that have shaken the NFL in recent years.
Oliver, only 29 years old, left behind a wife and two young children. His former coach at the University of Georgia said it was a very sad day and that the news has been difficult on everyone who knew him. After playing for UGA, Oliver went on to play for the Chargers from 2007 to 2011, securing 144 tackles in 57 games.
According to police, Oliver’s body was discovered at the bottom of a set of stairs at a private residence in Marietta, Georgia earlier this week. A family member discovered the body and called 911. A medical examiner arrived at the scene and ruled the death a suicide by handgun. Police say they are still investigating the incident and do not yet know the circumstances surrounding his death.
Tragically, Oliver’s case is not as rare as many people might expect. In fact, a number of former NFL players have committed suicide in recent years, many of whom were later discovered to have severe brain injuries. Just last year, Junior Seau took his life at age 43 and was eventually discovered to have been suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition that develops after a person sustains multiple blows to the head.
Ray Easterling, former Atlanta Falcons safety, committed suicide in April of 2012. Easterling’s brain was later analyzed and also found signs of CTE. In February 2011, former defensive back for the Bears Dave Duerson died of a gunshot wound to the chest, saving his brain for research. Doctors with Boston University later found CTE in Duerson’s brain.
The rash of suicides prompted the NFL to create a crisis support line for current players and former players. Known as the NFL Life Line, it promises confidentiality for all callers, including family members worried about their loved ones. Though Oliver’s brain has not yet been tested for signs of CTE, his death serves as a tragic reminder of the harm that years of grueling physical work can cause professional athletes.
Source: “Paul Oliver’s suicide is latest in a string among former NFL players,” by Joe Sutton, published at CNN.com.