Jovan Belcher Suicide: Did The Kansas City Chiefs LB Kill Himself And Girlfriend Due To Head Injuries?

By Amir Khan on December 1, 2012 1:02 PM EST

Belcher
Jovan Belcher, linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, allegedly killed himself and his girlfriend on Saturday (Photo: Creative Commons)

Jovan Belcher, linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, allegedly murdered his girlfriend in his home on Saturday before heading to the Chief's Arrowhead stadium and turning the gun on himself, according to the Kansas City Star.

Jovan Belcher allegedly murdered his girlfriend around 7 a.m. after an argument for driving to the Kansas City Chief's Arrowhead stadium. Jovan Belcher then encountered Chief's GM Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel, who tried to stop Belcher from hurting anyone else. However, by time police arrived, they heard a gunshot, and found that Jovan Belcher committed suicide.

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"We can confirm that there was an incident at Arrowhead earlier this morning," the Chiefs said in a statement. "We are cooperating with authorities in their investigation."

Jovan Belcher's suicide marks the 21st NFL player to commit suicide. Most recently, San Diego Charger linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide in May.

Doctors suspected that Junior Seau committed suicide due to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that stems from repeated concussions, and can cause depression. However, while Seau never officially had a concussion during his career, his wife, Gina Seau, said he definitely suffered concussions during his playing days.

"He always bounced back and kept on playing," Gina Seau said, according to the Seattle Times. "He's a warrior. That didn't stop him."

Jovan Belcher's suicide raises questions as to whether repeated head injuries can raise the risk for violence and suicide. Jovan Belcher played linebacker, a position that is extremely physical, and Jovan Belcher's suicide may have been caused, or at least contributed to by, football.

A recent study found that football players are much more likely to die of brain injuries, and with NFL stars such as Jovan Belcher starting football earlier, the severity of injuries has increased.

"Football has changed a great deal (since the late 1980s)," Robert Cantu, study author and  co-director of the Sports Legacy Institute, told USA Today. "The players are bigger and the game is faster now compared to then. It wouldn't surprise me if the problem isn't worse in the modern era. Also it wasn't common in that earlier era for players to start as a kid . The modern generation is starting younger so they've had longer exposure to brain trauma."

Another study, published in the journal Pediatrics last year, found that repeated blows to the head increase the risk of violence. Researchers looked at 850 high-school students, and found that of those who suffered a head injury, 44 percent engaged in some form of violence the following year, compared to 34 percent who did not report a head injury.

While it's unclear what exactly lead to Jovan Belcher's suicide, the evidence suggests that repeated head injuries could cause a propensity for violence. Jovan Belcher's suicide may have been caused by repeated head injuries, something the NFL is concerned about. The NFL has been working for some time now to cut down on head injuries.

"Well before this study was released, the NFL took significant steps to address head injuries in football, provide medical and financial assistance to our retired players, and raise awareness of the most effective ways to prevent, manage and treat concussions," the league said in a statement earlier this year. "The NFL has strengthened its playing rules to remove unnecessary hits to the head and better protect players in speed and defenseless positions."

Jovan Belcher is originally from Long Island, N.Y., and had been with the Chiefs for four years.

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