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Neurosurgeon Explains Impact Of Repeated Concussions

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The NFL estimates that a concussion occurs in every other game – that's about 100 to 150 players a season.

Most recently we've learned about the serious neurological damage associated with repeated concussions - dementia, depression, Alzheimer's, memory loss and death – some by their own hand.

Former All-Pro Linebacker Junior Seau shot himself in the chest Wednesday. He was 43.

Last month, the Atlanta Falcons safety, Ray Easterling, shot himself at 62. He told his wife he "felt like his brain was falling off."

And last year, the Chicago Bears' Dave Duerson, was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He left a note asking that his brain be used for research.

"A number of players are donating their brains even if they don't have any obvious problem," says Dr. Jack Wilberger, chairman of neurosurgery at Allegheny General Hospital.

The current players' lawsuit against the NFL contends that the league knew as early as the 1920's about the harmful effects of concussions.

Steeler offensive lineman Terry Long, 46, died after drinking antifreeze. Doctors confirmed that brain damage from his career contributed to his depression and suicide.

And, "Iron" Mike Webster came to his sad end suffering amnesia, dementia and depression.

These lives beg the question: how is high the price to be paid for the love of the game?

"The abnormal behaviors start in their late 30's and it's said it gets worse and worse," Dr. Wilberger said. "The average time to death after they start is about 15 years."

Even with big fines and suspensions, Dr. Wilberger doesn't see it changing.

"We see somebody like Mike Webster, who probably never took the kind of hits that Hines Ward would take, still he succumbed to that exact same problem."

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