It's hard to imagine a more horrifying thought than one of the last ones Dave Duerson ever had: knowing you've got to shoot yourself through the heart to make sure scientists can find the brain damage that led you to suicide in the first place.
That's an assumption, of course. At the moment we don't know why Duerson took his own life; for all we know, it could have been his pending bankruptcy. But we know that Duerson thought something was wrong with his brain, and he believed that his time in the NFL is what caused it.
In messages to loved ones before his suicide, Duerson told them to make sure his brain was donated to the Boston University center studying chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE can cause dementia, depression and aggression, and has shown up in an increasing number of athletes' brains, including Andre Waters, who took his own life in 2006.
You'll hear increasingly more about Duerson's bankruptcy, as if that drove him to suicide like it has so many other non-NFL veterans. But the sad story perfectly fits the narrative of young men who were chewed up and spat out by the NFL's meat grinder, without a safety net for either their financial or mental well-being. Last year the league donated $1 million to the Boston University CTE study. It's a pittance compared to the damage football has caused, but it's not their only contribution. In the most horrific way possible, they've donated yet another study participant.