O.J. Murdock is the sixth and youngest former NFL player in the last two years to commit suicide. A disturbing trend is happening on the grid iron and more bodies are beginning to pile up, as growing speculation has continuously fueled discussions about the damage playing football can inflict on the brain.
STORY: Cryptic! Tennessee Titans Receiver O.J. Murdock Leaves Text Messages Before Suicide
It’s not clear whether Murdock had suffered from any sort of brain injury, since an autopsy hasn’t been performed yet, but the discussion will most definitely veer to head injuries in football and the possible implication that consistent head trauma leads to depression, and ultimately suicide.
STORY: Oh No! Tennessee Titans Receiver O.J. Murdock Commits Suicide
In his final words to Fort Hays State receiver coach Al McCray, Murdock wrote:
“’Coach, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and my family,'” recalled McCray, a former longtime high school assistant in Hillsborough County. “At the end of the text he said, ‘I apologize.’”
Murdock had sent the message at 3:30 a.m. and he was found in his car in front of Middleton High School around 8:30 a.m. He was declared dead from his self-inflicted gunshot wound at 10:43 a.m.
Murdock’s case is unique in that, unlike other NFL players who took their lives after their careers were over, his had just started.
Murdock was on injured reserve last season with the Tennessee Titans after injuring his Achilles and did not report to training camp last Friday with the rest of the Titans. He was reportedly absent due to personal reasons.
The reason why Murdock took his life is the million-dollar question. He was set for stardom in the NFL and as a young receiver, jobs weren’t scarce, his teammates and coaches loved him, he was a star in the community during his high school and college days, and all that awaited him was a career in professional football.
Could it have been the constant pressure to perform at a high level that led to his death? Junior Seau was the most recent former NFL player to take his life and before his death everyone said the same thing: “He was in good spirits,” and “We never saw any signs.” Incidents as tragic as Murdock’s and Seau’s come out of nowhere and oftentimes are caused by mounting depression.
But don’t get it twisted, these suicidal tragedies aren’t regulated to just football players, constant physically demanding aggressive sports plays into an athlete’s mental development and/or capacity.
Hockey is a prime example, as evidenced by the death of Wade Belak, a former NHL player who hung himself in September of 2011.
Only an autopsy and the study of Murdock’s brain will determine if in fact head trauma or depression played a role in his suicide; but for now, we can only speculate.
Junior Seau, the legendary San Diego Chargers defensive monster killed himself in May of 2012 with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was found by his girlfriend at his home in California.
Ray Easterling, a one-time Atlanta Falcons star, shot himself at home after struggling to cope with dementia.
Dave Duerson was a two-time Super Bowl winner. In February of 2011, he shot himself after texting family members asking for his brain to be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease.
Wade Belak was a former NHL enforcer. In September 2011, he was found dead, having hanged himself in a Toronto hotel room.
Kurt Crain, a one-time NFL player who later became the South Alabama associate head football coach, shot himself in April of 2012 after suffering deep depression stemming from a severe prostate infection.
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