CTE in Hockey

The Latest 400 or so Topics

Moderators: Mitch Hawker, east hockey, karl(east)

Schotzy
Posts: 192
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:36 pm

Post by Schotzy » Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:50 pm

goldy313 wrote:
Schotzy wrote:Yup. Seriously, this is not the place I am going to come to find this information, nor would I think for a second that it was the responsibility of the forum moderators to make sure it was here and in a place where everyone can see it. This forum is in no way an extension of the MSHSL, so why get all salty on Karl et all.

I understand the crusade, but disagree with the choice of battlefield.
I disagree with you on this point, Greybeard cites nearly everything and since the MSHSL and state law makes concussions a priority, and high school hockey is governed by the MSHSL it should be a topic easily found. Whether you choose to read it or do anything about is up to each individual but the information should be provided.

Also the FACT the MSHSL chooses to do only lip service to state law needs to be provided so it doesn’t look like an extension of the MSHSL. As Elliot posted most schools take concussions far more seriously than the MSHSL. At an MSHSL officials clinic in 2017 we as officials were told not to eject players for targeting fouls, contrary to the NFHS rule, and that we could not send a player to an athletic trainer for showing signs of a concussion.

The “battlefield” as you call it takes many fronts.

Combating concussions takes a 3 pronged approach; coaches, players, and officials. Coaching the proper technique, playing the right way, and calling the fouls. To take one of the 3 out hurts everyone.....to not teach the right way to check, to check improperly, and to not call the infraction hurts the game.....and at each part all should be held accountable.

Having a duckies and bunnies forum where everyone follows the MSHSL mantra is not what this forum has ever been. Debates on class structure, private schools, section alignment, etc. are debated annually......I don’t see why concussions, which are a major problem in all 4 major pro sports leagues and the biggest issue in contact sports should be buried.

Football participation rates at the 7-12 grades are falling pretty dramatically, the reasons are debated but seeing as overall fall sport participation rates are fairly steady due largely to an increase in cross country and trap shooting it is fairly easy to draw a conclusion. In Rochester, a town of 110,000 there are about half as many boy hockey players as there were when it was a town of 70,000. Economics play a role but you can’t ignore the real threat and cause concussions and risk there of play.
You are completely missing the point! It is not the responsibility of this forum to make your point more important than any other. Push it all you want, but don't expect everyone to get behind you. Just because the topic is not getting the amount of conversation YOU want, does not put the onus on the moderators to bump it to the top. Blaming the moderators for not sticking your topic in a place you deem appropriate, is simply ridiculous. It gets "buried" because the audience here is not the audience you need to target. Pretty simple really. Let's not forget your approach either. You come on here and get all "preachy" to everyone, and you lose, not only anyone who might listen, but now we are talking about you and not the topic you want to promote. Basic Marketing 101; know your audience.

Again, this forum is in no way an extension of MSHSL. Go yell at thew MSHSL about "burying" the issue. Again, I don't dismiss the issue, but I am dismissing the messenger in this case.

goldy313
Posts: 2940
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2002 6:56 pm

Post by goldy313 » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:11 am

Ugh!

I am not missing your point at all. I do not expect Karl to do anything (other than maybe admit hockey exists south of the I94 -494 corridor). I do think the topic is of extreme relevance though, enough so that it pops up many times a year and the debate to eliminate checking is gaining momentum. Put it all into one thread and let it go on or die as people who post seem fit.......don’t bury it in a little read girls thread is all I ask. It is their bored, they can do as they please but as long as I am not banned I will advocate for active discussion on this topic. Active does not mean we all agree, in fact the more opinions the better.

As for preaching, I am not doing that...other than making rules then not enforcing them is a problem. (From concussions to recruiting to enrollments to penalties in state tournaments etc.) As for the MSHSL, on this bored they are not very popular judging by the posts made over more than a decade. They have their heads in the sand more than any entity in my opinion on many issues....and that is topic worthy of discussion (and regularly is here).

Nearly everything Greybeard posts has nothing specifically to do with girls hockey. Yet it is allowed to exist, but why not allow it to exist where it can have the maximum exposure? Whether anyone chooses to read it is up to them, and even then they can make up their own minds. Put it where the most people can at least know it exists and make their own decisions from there.....

Jeffy95
Posts: 554
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:45 pm

Post by Jeffy95 » Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:07 am

goldy313 wrote:Ugh!

I am not missing your point at all. I do not expect Karl to do anything (other than maybe admit hockey exists south of the I94 -494 corridor). I do think the topic is of extreme relevance though, enough so that it pops up many times a year and the debate to eliminate checking is gaining momentum. Put it all into one thread and let it go on or die as people who post seem fit.......don’t bury it in a little read girls thread is all I ask. It is their bored, they can do as they please but as long as I am not banned I will advocate for active discussion on this topic. Active does not mean we all agree, in fact the more opinions the better.

As for preaching, I am not doing that...other than making rules then not enforcing them is a problem. (From concussions to recruiting to enrollments to penalties in state tournaments etc.) As for the MSHSL, on this bored they are not very popular judging by the posts made over more than a decade. They have their heads in the sand more than any entity in my opinion on many issues....and that is topic worthy of discussion (and regularly is here).

Nearly everything Greybeard posts has nothing specifically to do with girls hockey. Yet it is allowed to exist, but why not allow it to exist where it can have the maximum exposure? Whether anyone chooses to read it is up to them, and even then they can make up their own minds. Put it where the most people can at least know it exists and make their own decisions from there.....
You're posting on a thread in the Boys High School Forum titled "CTE IN HOCKEY." What additional exposure are you looking for from the moderators?

greybeard58
Posts: 1765
Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:40 am

Post by greybeard58 » Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:47 pm

Athletes’ head injuries can provoke surprisingly long-lasting harm

Elite athletes are some of the strongest people in the world. They train day after day to prepare for national and international competitions. Many hope to stand on the Olympic podium with a gold medal. For every athlete who succeeds, though, many others are derailed by injury. And not all of those injuries will be visible.

But elite athletes are not the only ones at risk. Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adolescents, for instance, have sustained a concussion. This is a particularly nasty type of head injury. The statistic comes from a new survey reported September 26 in the journal JAMA. And more than 1 in every 20 teens, its data show, reported having been concussed two or more times.

Affected athletes may not be able to compete again for weeks, months — even years. Indeed, scientists and doctors had long thought that concussed people could safely return to regular activities once their symptoms went away. New data now dispute that.

Stopping concussions before they happen may be the only way to prevent long-term damage to the brain and how it works. That’s the conclusion of the researchers behind these studies. And although anyone can sustain a head injury, athletes in many sports face a special risk. Among those most likely to incur a concussion are those who play football and hockey. Those taking part in the winter Olympic sports of snowboarding, skiing and bobsled also are at risk.

Particularly disturbing, new research shows that even without a concussion, head injuries can lead to long-term damage. They may even lead to a brain disease known as CTE.


Athletes’ head injuries can provoke surprisingly long-lasting harm
Even as symptoms from concussion and other injuries fade, brain impairments may last years
Read more: https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/ ... sting-harm

goldy313
Posts: 2940
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2002 6:56 pm

Post by goldy313 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:56 am

Two threads that started here were banished to the girls topic. Stop doing that. That is what I ask.....beside acknowledgement good hockey exists south of the I94 - 494 corridor.

And ban the the letter M from the alphabet....a million dollars :lol:

Greybeard does thankless work....

There are people on this bored smart enough to save contact sports, their opinions need to be heard and put down. The status quo will not do it, the people in the MSHSL and coaches association proclamation that football and hockey are safer than ever are laughed at. Nobody really believes that.

But there is a way forward. People on this bored have ideas and potential solutions. An active discussion helps this. Don’t minimize the impact this bored has. The solution lies beyond state administrators, beyond the Supreme Court deeming gambling legal. It lies with the parents of 10 year olds hoping the best for their kids. I trust the open minds of this bored more than administrators. The moderators eh?

From open discussion come solutions.

Jeffy95
Posts: 554
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:45 pm

Post by Jeffy95 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:22 am

goldy313 wrote:Two threads that started here were banished to the girls topic. Stop doing that. That is what I ask.....beside acknowledgement good hockey exists south of the I94 - 494 corridor.

And ban the the letter M from the alphabet....a million dollars :lol:

Greybeard does thankless work....

There are people on this bored are smart enough to save contact sports, their opinions need to be heard and put down. The status quo will not do it, the people in the MSHSL and coaches association proclamation that football and hockey are safer than ever are laughed at. Nobody really believes that.

But there is a way forward. People on this bored have ideas and potential solutions. An active discussion helps this. Don’t minimize the impact this bored has. The solution lies beyond state administrators, beyond the Supreme Court deeming gambling legal. It lies with the parents of 10 year olds hoping the best for their kids. I trust the open minds of this bored more than administrators. The moderators eh?

From open discussion come solutions.
Football and Hockey actually are safer than they've ever been. A lot more awareness nowadays. My buddy played D2 Football in the 90's. He was a fullback. He spent every 2 1/2 hours of practice in s collision with the middle libebacker. Times have changed.....:

goldy313
Posts: 2940
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2002 6:56 pm

Post by goldy313 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:46 am

Literally one of the dumbest posts ever.

Math does not support this.
Concussion data in practice is non existent.
Concussion data in games is a new subject and the data is so new an objective history is now only being baselined.

We can safely assume concussions are increasing, however detection is also increasing. Saying it is safer goes against all science, underdecting previously is valid, as is over detecting it now. The current science is that we have underestimated it.

greybeard58
Posts: 1765
Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:40 am

Post by greybeard58 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:28 pm

Wonder why studies show many hockey players don't take concussions seriously?

When the National Hockey League announced in late 2011 that Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine would star in a weekly documentary called Making of a Royal about his coaching of a Midget rep hockey team, the league promised an “unprecedented” series with behind-the-scenes footage.

The 24-part series about the Long Island, N.Y., Royals was shown on the NHL Network, NHL.com, and the NHL’s YouTube channel.

Episode nine covered the issue of brain injuries in hockey, a particularly noteworthy subject because LaFontaine’s 15-year NHL career ended due to post-concussion symptoms.

Six days before that five-minute Making of a Royal episode was posted on YouTube on Dec. 16, 2011, NHL vice-president of media relations Frank Brown ordered NHL video producer Ryan Bader to remove a section of LaFontaine’s comments about concussions.

“Once you get a concussion you are four to six times more likely to get another one – and it’s probably exponential from there,” LaFontaine said in a clip that was dropped from the show.

It wasn’t the only clip Brown asked to have removed.

“The closing quote from Pat LaFontaine about ‘A lot less mothers and fathers cringing, wondering when’s the next ambulance going out…’ MUST go,” Brown wrote in a Dec. 10, 2011, email to Bader.

Copies of Brown’s emails were included in a 256-page transcript of NHL public relations executive Gary Meagher’s Oct. 7, 2015, deposition in Toronto.

Meagher’s deposition was among more than 30 held in connection with the NHL concussion lawsuit, filed in a U.S. federal court in Minnesota in 2013.

Brown wasn’t deposed in connection with the NHL concussion lawsuit and Meagher said he didn’t know why his colleague demanded changes to the video.

“Why would Frank Brown from your communications group want that to be deleted from a video that was being produced by the NHL?” plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Dearman asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Meagher said.

Former NHLer Brendan Shanahan, then director of player safety for the league, also appeared in episode nine of Making of a Royal.
Brown also asked for an edit of Shanahan’s interview clips.

At one point, Shanahan said, “There’s a tremendous amount of peer pressure if you’ve got a banged up shoulder or a banged up knee, it’s sort of like, ‘Look, your ankle will heal over the summer, get through this, for us.’ But I think when there’s a head injury, the brotherhood wants to come together and protect the guy with that head injury.”

Brown ordered Bader to cut the rest of Shanahan’s quote where he said, “This might not end over the summer … it might affect him for the rest of his life … might end his career.”

Brown wrote, “THE FOLLOWING MUST BE DELETED” about another clip of the video that showed Shanahan on the ice in an NHL game “looking up/dazed.”

All professional sports leagues and companies, of course, are in the business of trying to shape a favourable opinion in the public eye. And yet with a high-profile concussion lawsuit being argued in a U.S. federal court, that is especially so for the NHL, whose executives paid close attention to the LaFontaine series to remove any commentary that might be considered negative or controversial.

“It’s our job as communications people to promote our league, to promote our game,” Meagher testified during his deposition in Toronto.
The depositions show that the league’s efforts to gauge and help shape public and media opinion about issues such as fighting, head hits and violence in hockey were ongoing long before the concussion lawsuit was filed.

NHL knocks out hard-hitting concussion comments
Read more: https://www.tsn.ca/nhl-knocks-out-hard- ... -1.1099155

Chris Nowiski: “Wonder why studies show many youth, high school and collegiate hockey players don't take concussions seriously? New evidence reveals NHL has been silencing legends like Pat LaFontaine and Brendan Shanahan, preventing concussion advice from reaching the public.”

east hockey
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Post by east hockey » Sun Jun 10, 2018 5:11 pm

goldy313 wrote:Two threads that started here were banished to the girls topic. Stop doing that. That is what I ask.....beside acknowledgement good hockey exists south of the I94 - 494 corridor.

And ban the the letter M from the alphabet....a million dollars :lol:

Greybeard does thankless work....

There are people on this bored smart enough to save contact sports, their opinions need to be heard and put down. The status quo will not do it, the people in the MSHSL and coaches association proclamation that football and hockey are safer than ever are laughed at. Nobody really believes that.

But there is a way forward. People on this bored have ideas and potential solutions. An active discussion helps this. Don’t minimize the impact this bored has. The solution lies beyond state administrators, beyond the Supreme Court deeming gambling legal. It lies with the parents of 10 year olds hoping the best for their kids. I trust the open minds of this bored more than administrators. The moderators eh?

From open discussion come solutions.
Cite the threads.

Lee
Message Board arsonist since 2005
Egomaniac since 2006

greybeard58
Posts: 1765
Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:40 am

Kyle's Story:

Post by greybeard58 » Sat Jun 16, 2018 11:57 pm

One of the youngest people in the country to be diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease

Kyle's Story: Minnesota Family Raising Awareness about CTE | KSTP.com

Kyle missed most of ninth grade because of recurring headaches. The pounding resumed even after what seemed to be minor collisions or hits to the head. A football to the head while playing catch at a Halloween party led to headaches for 14 months. All totaled, he'd suffered at least 10 severe concussions from grade school into high school, his mother said.

"I know when people look at it now they are like 'Geez, you didn't handle that very well,'" Beth said. "But at that point we hadn't heard of a concussion protocol."

In college, Kyle's pain, depression and anxiety had become overwhelming. In 2015, he committed suicide in his dorm room at the age of 20. In a suicide note, he wrote that the concussions "altered" his life.

"He told me on multiple occasions, 'Something is wrong with my brain – there is something wrong with it,''' Beth said.

Out of their grief, his parents became determined to find the answers that had eluded their son for so long – all in the hope to raise awareness for other parents whose children have suffered similar head injuries.

Beth and her husband Mike sent their son's brain to a Veterans Administration hospital in Boston, Mass., where researchers are studying the long-term impact of concussions and hits to the head.

An examination of Kyle's brain tissue revealed he had the early stages of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE.

He is one of the youngest people in the country to be diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease.

Researchers at the lab have diagnosed the disease – after death – in former professional football and hockey players, and veterans who have suffered repeated head trauma.

CTE, researchers say, is linked to symptoms that include memory loss, confusion, erratic behavior and personality changes – including depression and suicidal thoughts.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was granted rare access to the lab earlier this year where Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University's CTE Center, explained how brain donations from families like the Raarups have expanded their research to include non-professional athletes.

"I can never wrap my head around these young people that have this disease," Dr. McKee said in interview.

Kyle's diagnosis had finally provided his parents with an explanation for his struggles.

"We were just relieved," his mother said. "If we had known about CTE, it would have changed how we approached multiple concussions."

Beth and Mike say that they do not want Kyle's injuries and death to frighten other families whose children are playing contact sports.

"Other kids on his team, they got hit in the head but they didn't have that prolonged problem with it," Beth said.

Instead, they said they hope their son's struggle increases awareness of the potential consequences of repetitive head trauma.

"People need to know about it so we can look at long-term effects," Beth said as she held back tears. "You don't ever want this.”

Kyle's Story: Minnesota Family Raising Awareness about CTE | KSTP.com
Watch the video: http://kstp.com/news/kyles-story-minnes ... e/4886728/

greybeard58
Posts: 1765
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Kyle Raarup played hockey in Minnesota

Post by greybeard58 » Sat Jun 16, 2018 11:59 pm

Kyle Raarup played hockey in Minnesota

Kyle Raarup
September 24, 1995 - November 12, 2015

Kyle loved all sports, all his life. He played as much and as many sports as he possibly could, with football and hockey being his favorites. He was a fiercely competitive and driven athlete. He was naturally gifted with speed, agility, and great eye-hand coordination. He was a running back for football, offensive player in hockey, and could play any position he was put in for baseball. Kyle loved it all and loved the friendships that playing sports offered him.

As it is with any dedicated athlete, Kyle was hit many times with only minor injuries. Concussions, in our mind, happened when you got knocked out from a hit, or got your "bell rung". As the injuries continued and we became more informed about concussions we realized that Kyle had suffered many minor concussions from about 4th grade on. It wasn't until Kyle was in 8th grade and experienced a check from behind into the boards in hockey when he started having lasting symptoms that we could not control. He waited the recommended two weeks before playing again, only to be hit from behind again when he returned to play. This time he had such severe headaches and other symptoms that he was unable to return to sports or school. Each bump to his head after that caused increasingly severe symptoms for an extended amount of time.

Over the years of seeing innumerable doctors and other medical professionals, Kyle was diagnosed with post concussive syndrome. While it was nice to have a name for what he was going through, Kyle wanted something that would help his symptoms. This seemed to be an elusive goal. He was a trooper and tried every therapy, testing, medication, vitamin, whatever we could find to try to alleviate the pain and memory/thinking difficulties he was experiencing. None worked well, which was a source of great frustration to Kyle. He wanted his brain to go back to normal.

Kyle was able to attend college where he flourished with the assistance of the student services program that allowed him accommodations for his anxiety and inability to handle a lot of sensory input during testing. Kyle loved college and the friends he made there. He was outgoing, cheerful, energetic, and fun to be around. His continued struggles with his anxiety/depression, memory problems and a new stomach ailment overwhelmed him and he took his life on 11/12/15. His brain was donated to the Boston University CTE study in order to find out the answer to his nagging question "what's wrong with my brain and why can't it be fixed?"

In December 2016, we found out that Kyle was diagnosed with Stage I CTE along with some brain abnormalities (micro hemorrhages and hippocampus damage) that helped his family get some answers to that nagging question of "what was going on in his brain?" His suicide and the Boston University brain study has helped raise awareness in our community of the lasting impact that concussions can have on the life of a young adult. The loss of a child, brother and friend to many has hit us all hard and will be something that we struggle with for a long time. We are grateful to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for their research and to finally give us some answers, and for their efforts to continue to find answers for future athletes. Kyle would be proud to be a part of this important research and the continued efforts made to understand the devastating affects concussions have on young lives.

We miss him every day, but are proud of who Kyle was and how he has helped us and others understand mental illness and concussions.

By Kayla, Tyler, Mike and Beth Raarup
Read more: https://concussionfoundation.org/story/kyle-raarup

goldy313
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Post by goldy313 » Sun Jun 17, 2018 7:31 am

Cite them.

Really?

Karl deletes them because they stray from the condolence they were originally started for. I mean, by gosh, a guy smokes 3 packs of cigarettes a day and we ignore that when he dies of lung cancer.....because that strays from what else he did in life.

Native Minnesotan and pro bowler Keith Fahrnhorst just passed away, as did his team mate Dwight Clark....just ignore the brain damage both had.....

Clearly this is the thread Greybeard needs to post in, it will survive or die on its own merits......unless Karl decides to banish it.

karl(east)
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Contact:

Post by karl(east) » Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:26 am

Goldy, I literally have zero idea what you are talking about. Absolutely zero. If you would like to attempt to explain my alleged sins to me via PM, by all means do so, and I will use whatever tools I may have at my disposal to rectify the situation.

Otherwise, I think we are going to start enforcing one of the few rules this forum does have--"Admin policy is to be discussed via e-mail only, not on the board"--as you have done a marvelous job of hijacking this thread away from its intended topic by making it about me.

greybeard58
Posts: 1765
Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:40 am

Tyler Hilinski Suicide: Aftermath of Washington State QB's

Post by greybeard58 » Mon Jul 02, 2018 7:20 pm

Even though this is about a football the story is important the same. From the SI web site

Tyler Hilinski Suicide: Aftermath of Washington State QB's death | SI.com

A College QB's Suicide. A Family's Search for Answers.
In the five months since Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski’s suicide, his family has tried to untangle the reasons he shot himself. During that harrowing journey they've honored their son and brother through a foundation, work in medicine, and by continuing to play his high-stakes position—while wrestling with frightening questions about mental health and the game they love.

Greg BishopJune 26, 2018
Watch Losing Tyler on SI TV. Our latest documentary chronicles the Hilinski family’s search for answers in the aftermath of tragedy.

Cards and collages line the entryway to the Hilinski family’s home in Irvine, Calif., everything signed with My deepest condolences and promises of prayers. There’s an oar from the University of Minnesota football team, a note from the Seahawks’ general manager and 20,000 wristbands stuffed in boxes, each stamped with a red number 3 and two words: Hilinski’s Hope.

The messages arrive daily, reminding the family of its new dichotomy. Now, there’s before Jan. 16 and after, life with Tyler and without him. It’s the difference between the photo the Hilinskis cling to and the envelope they cannot bring themselves to open.

The framed picture is blown up and rests on the floor of the entryway, against the wall. It’s what Kym Hilinski, the family matriarch, looks at when she wakes at 2 a.m., thinking things she had never thought, like, I hate my life. Her middle son, Tyler, never seemed happier than in that photo. It was taken on Sept. 9, 2017, four months before Kym carried his ashes through airport security and covered the drum set in the music room with wilting flower bouquets. Tyler is centered in the frame, wearing his crimson number 3 Washington State jersey, surrounded by fans reaching out to touch him. That’s her Sweet T, her Big Ty, her Superman. Even though he’s the backup quarterback, Cougars fans are carrying him like a deity off the field after he threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns in a triple-overtime 47–44 conquest of Boise State—the best game of his life.

Kym, as usual, covered her eyes with her hands at Martin Stadium that day. Tyler’s older brother, a medical student named Kelly, was halfway through his graveyard shift at an Ogden, Utah, hospital, stealing glances at his laptop between calls to the ER. His father, Mark, and his younger brother, Ryan, were at home in Irvine, causing such a ruckus that neighbors stopped by to check on them. Eventually, Kym found Tyler on the field, just after the photo had been taken. He put his arm around her. “Did that just happen?” he asked.

The photo showed Tyler as they knew him, before he entered a closet in a Pullman, Wash., apartment and fatally shot himself. Before the family needed answers and resolved to find out why. Now, the image both comforts and haunts the Hilinskis, reminding them of better times, together, as the closest of close-knit football families. But it also makes them wonder. Was Tyler’s happiness that day just a mirage?

Inside the adjacent living room, the picture is surrounded by binders stuffed with research on depression, suicide and traumatic brain injuries, as well as a letter from the Mayo Clinic that contains a potential clue—the autopsy of Tyler’s brain. The three letters that further complicated everything.

At the placemat nearest the photo, where on his final visit home Tyler might have eaten breakfast, there’s a Priority Mail envelope sealed with masking tape. It’s from the Whitman County Coroner. Roughly 10 feet separate the picture and the envelope, and yet the gap between what they represent—Tyler’s seemingly happy life and his inexplicable death—is vast. Closing the chasm between those two realities is the Hilinskis' most obvious path to closure. What they learn could soften their pain and lessen their confusion, pushing them forward, into mental health advocacy, where they can assign deeper, lasting meaning to Tyler’s life. The Hilinskis have been told the contents inside the envelope are graphic and even though they want to know, even though they have to know, they have not been able to open it. Not yet.

On the afternoon before he killed himself, Tyler Hilinski learned how to use a gun. His roommates say they had never even seen him hold a water pistol, and yet he took advantage of a rare sunny winter afternoon in Pullman to shoot at clay pigeons with several teammates. They taught him how to hold, aim and fire, then spent the last 15 minutes of their session coaching him up, cheering him on. He didn’t hit a single target.

Tyler spent the night playing Fortnite with teammates and his brothers, signing off after a six-hour session, only after they had won. When he woke early the next morning, he sent a group text to his wide receivers reminding them of a workout scheduled for 3 p.m. At 10:25 he pinged his ex-girlfriend and high school sweetheart, Sophie Engle, I’m sorry for everything. He also told his older brother he wanted to play Fortnite again later. When Kelly called later that morning, Tyler said he was in class.

“I love you,” Kelly told him.

“I love you too,” he said.

Tyler was moving into a new apartment and dropped off one of his new roommates, defensive lineman Nick Begg, at class around 11. That was the last time anybody saw or heard from him. When he didn’t show up for an afternoon workout, it was not only unusual—this was Tyler Hilinski, the most dependable of coach Mike Leach’s players—but also alarming. Enough so that Antonio Huffman, the assistant athletic director for football operations, dispatched Begg and fellow roommate Peyton Pelluer to search for him. After they failed to find Tyler at the apartment or at his girlfriend’s place and they couldn’t locate his car, Huffman called local hospitals and police departments, and urged officers to put out an APB.

“Watch
Huffman phoned Tyler’s parents. Kelly sent Tyler a text, offering to leave that minute and drive the nine hours from Ogden. “I thought, maybe, by being there, I could shake him,” Kelly says. “I could look him in the eyes and go, what’s going on?”

Begg could sense the panic in Kelly’s voice, rising with each call, cresting when Kelly noticed that Tyler had stopped sharing his location on his cell phone. The players doubled back to Tyler’s old digs, the Aspen Village apartment complex, where they found his car hidden in the back lot and saw his passport had been ripped apart and left in the vehicle. They pleaded with the apartment manager to unlock the unit, and when the manager refused, Begg and Pelluer stalked through overgrown grass to Building D and kicked in the green door to apartment 201. They checked the living room, then the bedroom farthest from the balcony, then the one adjacent to it. And once inside, Pelluer, looking into the open closet, saw Tyler, with the AR-15 lying next to him, a bullet hole through his left eye.

Huffman arrived just after the police officers, who looked at him and shook their heads. One just said, “I’m sorry.” Huffman phoned Kym, who threw her cell and called him a liar before suffering a panic attack. She spent part of that night in the hospital, wondering the same things that Mark wondered after he begged his oldest son to be wrong and after the organ donation organization called to ask about Tyler’s right cornea. Why hadn’t they seen this coming? Why?

Beginning that night and over the next few weeks and months, Mark and Kym would replay countless moments in their lives—starting with when they first fell in love, got married soon after college and had three boys who would gravitate to the same sport and the same position. Tyler was born after Kym’s water broke at Nordstrom and she hurried to the hospital, clutching her husband’s hand so tightly her knuckles whitened. “I did not let the nurses take [Tyler],” Kym says. “He slept on top of me.”

The Hilinskis were not a football family then. Mark, who later founded a software company, played quarterback and defensive end at Damien High in La Verne, Ca., and rooted for the Steelers; Kym, a lawyer, was a cheerleader but ambivalent about the game. The Hilinskis wanted to expose the boys to everything, so they skateboarded, took guitar lessons, played tennis, basketball and baseball.

Tyler was the easiest of the three. He never cried, never fussed. He loved action movies and video games and singing in the car at full volume. They found him goofy, and when he laughed, his nose scrunched up, reminding Mark, 52, of a young Jon Gruden.

The Hilinski brothers looked out for one another, although Tyler was the least confrontational. In fourth grade he tried to ignore a classmate who teased him for weeks about eating his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Hawaiian bread. Eventually Ryan, then a kindergartner, punched the bully in the face. Kym scolded Ryan, told him never to strike anyone, but she later told Kelly she was proud of her youngest, reminding him to “put your brothers and family before anyone.”

Tyler idolized Kelly, following him everywhere, especially into football. Mark and Kym had never planned to raise three college quarterbacks but all their boys grew tall and strong and possessed right arms that could whistle spirals. Quarterbacks they became. If Kelly and Tyler played on the same team, Tyler sometimes lined up at receiver, and in youth leagues, he played linebacker, earning the nickname Mini Urlacher for his punishing tackles.


As Mark and Kym looked back, they winced at all the hits Tyler delivered and endured. Kym, 53, had always worried about her football-obsessed sons. She preferred watching them in seven-on-seven camps, where defenders can’t touch quarterbacks. “I usually cover my eyes,” she says. “I’m so nervous that a big, gigantic linebacker is just going to come and truck my son. If I could Bubble Wrap them, I would.”

She also knew that her boys loved football more than they loved anything except one another, so she reluctantly drove them to practices and brought snacks to their teammates. Before Tyler’s junior season, he transferred to Upland High and won the starting job. He played like a lanky Brett Favre, scrambling, improvising, throwing no-no-no-no-YES! touchdowns off his back foot or across his body. Tyler’s coach, Tim Salter, called him Superman, in part to remind the quarterback he didn’t need to be heroic on every play. “But I do,” Tyler said.

At Upland, Tyler met Sophie Engle, and they dated for most of the next three years. They spent most weekends on the Hilinskis’ couch, playing with his yellow lab, Navy Blue, watching movies, ordering zucchini fries and engaging in burping contests. All those memories squared with the Tyler his family members knew; looking back at the first 18 of his 21 years, they had found no clues.

One story from years ago that Engle shared with the Hilinskis recently took on greater meaning after his death. She said she once told Tyler about a friend who had committed suicide, detailing the excruciating pain felt by those the friend had left behind. “You never know what someone’s going through,” Tyler said. “That’s so sad.”

Over those weeks and months, as he reviewed the events in Tyler’s life, Mark reminded himself to be realistic. “I’m not trying to canonize the kid,” he says. “I’m not trying to make him better than he was.” Moving from Tyler’s high school days into his college life, he saw what appeared to be the typical issues of early adulthood and wondered if they signified something more. If he scrutinized hard enough, there were signs. But how far back? Which were real?

Tyler chose WSU over the other four schools that offered him a scholarship, graduated early and arrived on campus for the spring semester of 2015. That first week he called home to say that he felt sad, as if he wanted to cry. “You’re homesick, sweetie,” his mom told him.

But that bout was hardly alarming. Kym went skydiving with Tyler that Mother’s Day, starting an annual tradition. He redshirted the next fall and backed up Luke Falk in 2016. He loved Leach and hung the coach’s Quarterback Commandments—3. Fat QB’s can’t avoid the rush; 11. Don’t be a celebrity QB—on the kitchen fridge. Other than what Tyler deemed a possible concussion sustained during practice his freshman season, nothing to that point appeared amiss. He called home in the evenings to analyze specific practice plays with his dad. They’d talk about his teammates’ problems with girlfriends, injuries or position coaches. Tyler didn’t complain. He drove one teammate to counseling sessions, let others borrow clothes or money, and yet not a single person could recall a time when Tyler asked them to reciprocate.

“The reality is we missed it and we let him down."
- Mark Hilinski
Leach says Hilinski nearly took Falk’s starting job before the 2017 season. Tyler’s old roommate, defensive back Kirkland Parker, says he expected Tyler to play in spots that year, start as a junior and “there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to make the NFL.” The Boise comeback showed Tyler what he was capable of. When Mark watches that game now, he sees something he didn’t see back then. “When he’d clap for the ball,” Mark says, voice quivering, “he wasn’t worried about anything.”

Last October, Tyler relieved Falk late in the second quarter at Arizona, down 20–7. In just over a half, he completed 45 passes for 509 yards and accounted for four touchdowns. He also threw four interceptions and Washington State lost. Sensing some distress in his younger brother—who also mentioned sustaining a hit that had “rocked” him—Kelly sent the rest of the family text messages saying Tyler was having trouble putting the defeat behind him. Kelly even drove to the Cougars’ game at Utah on Nov. 11 and consoled his brother on the balcony outside Tyler’s hotel room the night before, reminding him he couldn’t win every time in triple OT. Why not?, Superman responded. “He felt like he let everyone down,” Kelly says.


His family noticed other, seemingly minor changes in Tyler after the Arizona loss. He wasn’t as responsive to texts and calls the rest of the season, particularly in the lead-up to the Holiday Bowl, where he started in a loss to Michigan State. At one point, Mark asked Kym if she thought something was wrong with Tyler, and they determined he was just busy with classes and football and student life. That was the most difficult conversation, looking back. At a minimum, they had known something. “The reality is we missed it and we let him down,” his father says.

The last time his family saw Tyler, during a vacation to Mexico in early January, Kelly says “he was the happiest I ever saw him.” But when Tyler returned to school, his lack of responsiveness resumed. Kym sent a text asking, “Did you lose your phone” with a crying emoji. He replied not to worry. But after several additional messages went unanswered, she texted, “Is something wrong Ty?”

Kym sent another message on the afternoon of Jan. 16: Tyler please call me. That evening she found out he was dead. She looked back at every moment, wishing she had intervened more forcefully, tormenting herself over missed clues. When she looks back now at their pictures from Mexico, she sees a haunting sadness in Tyler’s eyes. Was that real? Or imagined?

The day after Tyler died, the family flew to Pullman. On the flight Kym silently wished the plane would crash and she’d be the only one hurt. Instead, upon landing, she steeled herself for meetings with medical examiners and detectives, learning that Tyler had left behind a note. Maybe, the Hilinskis thought, he had explained his decision, told them not to worry, absolved them of their guilt. Then they read the short message he had written and that only made them feel worse. That note—the Hilinskis do not want to publicly reveal the contents—offered no explanation, no I love you, no goodbye.

They learned that the school had quickly marshaled all available resources, getting counselors to the team within 40 minutes of when they found out Tyler died. Mark asked to address the Cougars with Kym, and when they assembled in the weight room, he looked out on young faces stained with tears. As the players hugged him and told their favorite Tyler stories, it became even clearer: His teammates didn’t have any answers, either.

During the Hilinskis’ time in Pullman they were able to glean details that only added to their anguish. How Tyler had searched with teammates for the rifle that he had already stolen. How police found a bullet hole in his car door and another in the room where he shot himself, surmising that he may have twice accidentally misfired the gun. But why had no one heard the shots?


They cleaned out his locker, hoping to find Tyler’s phone. They never did and that tormented them, the care he took to dispose of the one thing that might give them some answers. They visited the funeral home, asking a priest to pray over Tyler’s body, while Kym touched his hand and kissed him one last time. They decided to send his brain to the Mayo Clinic to be examined. It was packed in ice and mailed away.

Eventually, they started to wonder if what they were so desperately looking for even mattered—the more they learned the less it felt like they understood. They attended the vigil for Tyler, together, at the cougar statue outside the stadium. Thousands gathered. Kym wore her son’s letterman’s jacket. The band played. She read every note. Touched every flower. Then she turned around and saw his teammates, standing right there, everyone in the crowd holding up three fingers.

Kym sent Kelly a text message right then, redefining their mission, giving them a new kind of why.

“Hilinski’s Hope,” she wrote.

“What is that?” he responded.

“Our why,” she typed back.

“Our why for what?”

“Our why for getting out of bed every morning.”

Knowing she would receive no reply, Kym sent texts to Tyler in the weeks that followed.

Jan. 22: Hi Ty. I miss you so much. I love you.

Jan. 24: Hi Ty. I wish you didn’t leave me. I miss you so much.

Jan. 27 (the date of his memorial service): Today is going to be tough Ty. I am so sad and I miss you. I love you Ty.

March 8: Ty. I am mad today. Sad too. But so mad. You didn’t have to go. We would have figured this out. I love you T.

The family trudged forward, starting the Hilinski’s Hope Foundation—a non-profit designed to promote awareness and education of mental health for student athletes—making bracelets, coffee mugs, water bottles and dog tags, all stamped with 3 and the number for the national suicide prevention hotline.

“Support
Then the test results came back. First, the Whitman County medical examiner called to say that Tyler’s toxicology report showed no trace of drugs or alcohol. (“That actually made it worse,” Mark says.) The Mayo Clinic’s findings arrived next. Kym read the sentence—“After reviewing the tissue we can confirm that he had the pathology of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)”—and started to reconsider her entire search. The diagnosis was Stage 1, the lowest level. But still, Tyler was 21 when he died, he hadn’t played that much in college and for most of his life he manned the most protected of positions. If he had CTE, anyone could. She read that depression was one symptom for Stage 1 and a doctor told her Tyler’s brain looked “like that of a much older, elderly man.”

She didn’t want to blame football—to be clear: she does not blame football—and yet the diagnosis also gave her family its clearest and, in some ways, only known factor in his death. “It helped us to know,” Kelly says, “that a) there was something wrong and b) that he was hurting and we couldn’t understand it. It was, O.K., we have a legitimate why. That’s enough of that.”

“I just don’t give a f---. I don’t care. I love this sport. This is not what hurt him. I’m going to do everything that Tyler wanted to do with football."
- Ryan Hilinski, on his football future
Even then, Mark and Kym’s guilt remained strong, maybe even stronger. Tyler had played linebacker before high school, had played quarterback with abandon, had perhaps suffered that concussion as a college freshman and told Kelly that the hit he had endured against Arizona had “rocked him.” He must have been suffering in ways they could never comprehend. Being able to label what happened didn’t change what happened. It didn’t change the fact their son loved football. And that didn’t change how the sport he adored might have contributed to his death. And, on top of all of that, their youngest son, Ryan was about to accept a scholarship to play quarterback for an FBS program, starting in 2019. If his life mimicked Tyler’s—same genes, same sport, same position—would he suffer the same fate? Would Mark and Kym stop him? Could they?


Ryan’s parents decided to inform his decision, rather than make it for him. If he were 10, Kym says, “he wouldn’t play football because it’s too scary for me.” But Ryan is almost 18. His parents and doctor-to-be brother all read research papers on traumatic brain injuries, searching for links between CTE and mental illness; they called experts, asked questions and presented Ryan with their findings. Mark told Ryan that he could stop football that day, that they would figure something else out. Or he could continue and they would never cease searching for the latest in helmet technology, the most protective equipment, the best recovery techniques. They would make an inherently unsafe game as safe as possible. “I just don’t give a f---,” Ryan told them. “I don’t care. I love this sport. This is not what hurt him.

“I’m going to do everything that Tyler wanted to do with football. I’m going to do that for Tyler, to honor him.”

Ryan had found the way he would remember Tyler. They all did, eventually. Kelly had wanted to specialize in cardiovascular medicine but switched his career path to neurosurgery and decided in part to study CTE. Mark continued to work at the software company but discovered more solace in the impact of Hilinski’s Hope. The family formed a board, began to research best practices and spoke to experts about the most efficient ways to utilize the donations that poured in. Kym continued the skydiving tradition, renaming it Ty-diving, and took a trip with Kelly across Washington state to honor Tyler’s memory and thank the companies who donated to the foundation.

Even if Ryan knew he wanted to keep playing football, he harbored concerns. He chose South Carolina, where he would wear number 3 and study sports psychology. He did all of that for Tyler, and yet, deep down, “It scared me a little bit,” he says, refusing to suppress his deepest fears the way his brother had. “It made me step back and think, O.K., what if I get hit a couple more times? Will I [go through] what Tyler was going through?”

Robert Beck

Kelly says scared isn’t exactly the right word to describe the family’s relationship to football now. Kelly views the sport as a welcome distraction from Tyler’s death. He says that when he has kids—if he has a son, he’ll name him Tyler—he will let them play football, without hesitation. He wants the boy to learn lessons best gleaned in shoulder pads, to find pain and overcome it. But it’s not that simple, not for any of them. “I’m worried,” Kelly admits. “I’m worried Ryan might face the same signs and symptoms that Tyler had and he won’t be the same person that he was.”

The Hilinskis ultimately made the only choices they felt they had. Once they found a purpose, they backed off their search for answers and bottled their unease. They wanted to believe football would help Ryan more than it would hurt him. To think otherwise would be too overwhelming.

In therapy the Hilinskis continued to redefine their new life’s mission, shifting away from the why as much as possible and toward their therapist’s suggestion: how. This new framework helped them move forward. How could they prevent another suicide? How could they build a model for mental health awareness in college sports? How could they shatter stigmas so that football players like Ryan could voice their darkest thoughts without fearing they would seem weak?

The work they now feel destined for crystallized as winter turned to spring. They kept coming back to the stat that most alarmed them, that for males aged 15 to 34 suicide was the second-leading cause of death. They received thousands of letters and social media messages, from around the world. One of Tyler’s former teammates reached out to Kelly, saying he had felt compelled one night to find his struggling younger brother and tell him he loved him and give him a Hilinski’s Hope bracelet. The next morning that brother told Tyler’s teammate he had planned to kill himself the night before. That helped, a little, to know that they were not alone, to know that Tyler was not the only person suffering. Nothing they learned would bring Tyler back, but the fact that he helped save a life—that he would help save lives—brought the Hilinskis some comfort.

The stigmas, they decided, needed to change first. The family teamed up with retired quarterback Drew Bledsoe, whose son John played with Tyler in Pullman. “As men we have to learn to TALK about how we are feeling. . . . ” Bledsoe wrote in an Instagram post. “Reaching out for help when we need it is NOT a sign of weakness. Trusting your friends and asking for help is the ultimate sign of STRENGTH!!”

Mindsets needed changing. That they knew. Athletes who seek out tutors when they’re struggling in class or find doctors to repair torn ligaments needed to also use the resources available to aid their mental health. First, they needed to be aware that mental health resources existed. Washington State did have counselors and doctors Tyler could have seen. But they also needed more resources, more counselors, more programs, more of everything.

Tyler never asked for help. They knew that, too. He took on the same load as his teammates: classes and homework and girlfriends and position battles—and he never told his family or his coaches what he told two people: That he was having “dark thoughts.” That he was struggling. His family members think that he didn’t want to burden them. “It’s magnified in the sports realm, that resistance,” Bledsoe says. “They’re supposed to be 10 feet tall and bulletproof.”

They’re supposed to be like Superman. The Hilinskis want to change that, and more and more people want to join their cause. The teammates that held a benefit concert for their foundation. The students who started a mental health awareness fund at WSU. The folks who want to create a mobile mental health center in Pullman, making therapists available to come to patients.

Robert Beck

Mark believes his son would have had a better chance if the stigmas were less prevalent and better understood. He would start by banning guns in university-sponsored housing, even though it’s legal to carry certain firearms with concealed weapons permits in Washington state. “You have to understand the position I’m sitting in,” he says. “If that’s not there, he has to wait another day or week or hour, and sure, there are bridges to jump off and cars to crash if you really want to do something. But if he doesn’t have the gun, there’s certainly a better than zero chance of him surviving.”

He realizes how that might sound, the way gun enthusiasts would react. “This is where the stigma comes in,” Mark says. “Because the next answer is, well, he shouldn’t have stolen it. It’s that kind of thinking we have to change. We have to help people. Tyler needed help. And I’m not absolving myself of anything. You’ll never get me to feel less guilty than I am.”

Back at their house in Irvine, the Hilinskis rewatch the videos from Tyler’s memorial service. They’re all wiping away tears when the footage ends. Ryan is quick with a smile and reassurance. He throws his arm around his dad. “Does that mean we get to throw the old pigskin around?” he asks.

His father nods, and the family gathers its gear and heads outside, into the sun. They stroll over to a nearby park. Mark dons gloves for the passes Ryan zips his way. Kym walks Navy Blue across the field, far away from the throwing session. It’s still football, still hard for her to watch. “How in the world am I going to get through next year and then four more years and not worry every single time my son gets hit or taken down?” she says. “Ryan doesn’t need to see me cry or worry or be sick to my stomach. So I have to do what most moms do and just hide what I feel.”

She does just that on this cloudless afternoon as Ryan slings spirals to his dad. It’s one perfect throw after another. Mark hardly has to move. “Still got it,” Ryan deadpans as Mark shakes the sting out of his hands.

The session ends. The Hilinskis walk back toward the house, the football nestled under Ryan’s right arm. It feels like a happy moment, a return to normal, but it masks the darker feelings they each have. Sometimes Kym feels guilty just for smiling, or like a fraud for sending thank you notes to all the well-wishers, wondering just what she should be thankful for. Just walking past football lockers, especially those with the number 3 above them, reduces Mark to tears. Kelly, who was planning to live with Tyler after both finished school, must think about who he’ll room with now. Ryan wonders whom he’ll call when he needs advice.

Robert Beck

The future remains as uncertain as it felt in January, but the Hilinskis know they have to do more, do better, bolstering the purpose and meaning in Tyler’s death by holding up his life and why it mattered. And so they head into their living room, passing their favorite picture in the entryway, ignoring the envelope they refuse to open on the kitchen table. They may never open it, Kym says. Or they will, Mark says, and then they’ll read it once and burn it.

The last four months showed them that what’s in the report doesn’t matter. It never did. There’s no simple reason, no obvious why, nothing that will give the Hilinskis what they want—a second chance at helping Tyler. Instead, Ryan again throws an arm around his father’s shoulder and Mark wraps Ryan up, holds him tightly and whispers in his ear, “I’m sorry.” It’s another step into an uncertain future, and, for now, for as long as it takes, that will have to do.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Watch Losing Tyler on SI TV. Our latest documentary chronicles the Hilinski family’s search for answers in the aftermath of tragedy. ​

Special reporting by Mary Agnant and Alex Agnant.

Tyler Hilinski Suicide: Aftermath of Washington State QB's death | SI.com

greybeard58
Posts: 1765
Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:40 am

Monday, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day

Post by greybeard58 » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:30 pm

Today Monday, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day

Taking a moment today to reflect on the families in our hockey community who have been impacted by suicide.

How to get help in Minnesota: Suicide prevention resources
Read more: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/06/0 ... resources-

WHO launches new toolkit for suicide prevention
The WHO just released a new suicide prevention toolkit to mark World Suicide Prevention Day today. Suicide is a critical public health problem: Nearly 800,000 people kill themselves each year and many more attempt suicide. The new toolkit is stocked with resources for community suicide prevention efforts, including resources specifically for refugees and migrants, older individuals, and young people. It also outlines how a community can create a tailored action plan that taps into its unique resources and addresses specific prevention priorities.
Free toolkit at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/hand ... 91-eng.pdf

greybeard58
Posts: 1765
Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:40 am

DID ONE HIT LEAD TO A 13-YEAR-OLD'S SUICIDE?

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:20 pm

DID ONE HIT LEAD TO A 13-YEAR-OLD'S SUICIDE?
Three years ago, James Ransom suffered a concussion playing tackle football. Just over one year later, he took his own life.
MIRIN FADER SEPTEMBER 12, 2018
More than a thousand people came to James Ransom's funeral. His parents, Greg and Courtney, and his sisters, Julia and Lillie, were in attendance, each one imbued with a sorrow that crashed like waves. James' buddies were there; some wore bright yellow sneakers and ties—an homage to James' love of SpongeBob SquarePants. His elementary and middle school teachers, his football teammates and coaches, his neighbors and other members of the community all came. Row by row, they packed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Mission Viejo, California, full of grief, full of love.
"He never knew how many lives he touched," Lillie says. "He never knew how many people loved him, how many people needed him."

Giant poster boards bearing James' face were sprinkled throughout the church. Greg made them. He had been too devastated to put them together at first, but Courtney nudged him to do it. He found joy in the process, however—combing through the albums, picking the photos he liked best, seeing his son's doughy cheeks. His son in his football uniform, swallowed by giant shoulder pads, proudly clutching a football. His son dressed up as Harry Potter for Halloween. His son and wife rolling their top lips over, making funny faces.

A pianist began to play, and Lillie took the podium to sing "For Good" from Wicked. She was scared, staring at the casket in front of her, but she loved to sing and James was her No. 1 supporter. He used to come to her plays and whisper to their mom: "Lillie's got the best voice in here! They shouldn't let anybody sing but her!"
Lillie took a deep breath and let the rhythm take her:
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say
If I've been changed for the better?
Because I knew you
I have been changed
For good

More than a thousand people came to James Ransom's funeral. Those who knew James are still searching for answers as to the nature of his death.Photo courtesy of the Ransom family
There was not a dry eye in the church. A woman in the first row buried her head into the neck of the man next to her as tears streamed down her cheek. Greg and Courtney cried. They had seen their son go from a kid with a playful personality who loved what many young kids love—football, family, friends—to a kid who struggled with mental illness and ultimately took his life. The change was swift and drastic—it happened in just over a year's time. Those who knew James are still searching for answers.
________________________________________
The Ransoms live on a street full of kids. About 40 of them. The trees are green, and the lawns are immaculately trimmed. There are American flags and basketball hoops. Wide pavement to play in the hot sun. The cream-colored two-story houses start to look the same. A nearby cafe, Lola's, serves muffins that ooze fresh blueberries on first bite.

Ladera Ranch, about 10 miles east of Laguna Beach, is full of families with kids who play sports, and those families watch those kids play sports and become close with other families with kids who play sports. Both Greg and Courtney grew up around football—the former in Richland, Washington, and the latter Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles. Greg played tackle football, beginning in the ninth grade. Courtney enjoyed watching youth football as a young girl. Her father played quarterback in high school and her high school boyfriend was a punter.
James loved football. He began playing tackle at age nine. (Kids are allowed to play tackle as young as five in Santa Margarita Pop Warner.) He was a natural lineman—big and strong and skilled. He started on offense and defense and liked blocking and being depended on. When he was 12, James joined the Stallions, and in a year's time he became known as one of the toughest kids on his team. Players went one-on-one in practice, and whoever knocked the other kid off stayed. He hit hard and he got hit hard, too.
"My son would often go head to head, repeatedly," Greg says. "Who knows how many times they were hitting each other like that?"

When he was 12, James joined the Stallions, and in a year's time he became known as one of the toughest kids on his team. "My son would often go head to head, repeatedly," his father, Greg, says.Photo courtesy of the Ransom family
September 12, 2015, was a normal Saturday by most measures. A weekend day on the gridiron at West Covina High School. The Stallions were playing the West Covina Bulldogs. Courtney was not at the game. Greg, the Stallions' team manager, was on the sideline monitoring substitutions.

He didn't see it when it happened. He only heard what happened from James after the game. The game had gotten chippy, and during one play an opposing player hit James on the side of his head. James later said the player was dirty—intentionally so. Parents in attendance couldn't say for sure. Either way, James shook it off and continued to play. He was not taken off the field—maybe because nothing seemed out of the ordinary. According to Pop Warner, America’s largest and oldest youth football organization, Santa Margarita officials “have no memory or record of an injury so they are unable to describe it.”

James didn't say anything about the hit to anyone during the game. His reasons for doing so the Ransoms can now only speculate. He may not have had the awareness, as a 12-year-old, in his moment of distress, to think that he might have had a concussion. He may not have even understood what a concussion was.
Even if he did register that he had a concussion, he had learned from his coaches that playing through pain was part of the game. "Toughness" was something his coaches preached. According to Greg, there was a "culture of yelling" that James' coaches adhered to—even if players cried. (Jason Wegis, the Stallions' head coach, did not return requests for comment. Stan Bennett, the line coach, declined to comment.) The culture was familiar to Greg from his playing days; he and his friends feared their coach, who was allegedly known to throw helmets at players.
After the game, on the way home, Greg noticed blood on James’ ear. The lobe was smashed and the skin had an abrasion. Later that night, James told Greg he had his "bell rung." He also told his father it wasn't the first time something like this had happened. "Oh, I've gotten my bell rung before," James said.
"What?" Greg asked. "What do you mean?"
"I've had my bell rung before," James replied, nonchalantly, as if it were as common as running a route or completing a pass. "I've been hit so hard I've seen stars before."
________________________________________
James practiced on Monday, but on Tuesday he began to feel nausea and dizziness during drills. His parents took him to a pediatrician, who diagnosed James with a concussion, clinically known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). He was told to sit out for a week. A few days later, on Saturday, James and Greg went to see the Stallions play from the sidelines. Afterward, they watched the BYU-UCLA football game on television. But when James went to a concussion specialist the following week, he had no recollection of watching the Stallions or UCLA games.
Another specialist later on found James to have lost a substantial amount of his short-term visual geometric memory. During one test, he was shown rectangles and squares, which were then taken away. A few seconds later, he was asked to draw what he just saw. He couldn't remember the shapes.

There were other changes, like balance and vision. He couldn't stand on one foot without falling over. He had severe nausea within five to 10 minutes of attempting schoolwork, as his eyes struggled to track objects. His right eye and left eye struggled to work together; he was diagnosed with a third-nerve palsy and convergence issues. He was found to have lost a quarter of his visual spectrum and was given corrective glasses.

Within two to three weeks of his brain injury, James began exhibiting signs of intense obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was consumed with ensuring the battery on his phone was always 100 percent charged, with making sure the software on his tablet was always updated. He made sure doors were always locked. Courtney says James liked structure and had always been a perfectionist—he cried because he scored a 98 on a test at age eight—but after his brain injury, his behavior was different. "He was doing things he had never done before," Courtney says. "It was disturbing."
James wasn't just smart; he was curious. "He thought very deeply about things," says Paul Conover, the bishop at the family’s church. James knew two coding languages and was learning a third. He was interested in math and history, especially the Constitution. He took to philosophy. "He was brilliant," Meredith Ritner, an English instructor who taught James in the eighth grade, recalls.
Though James was accustomed to "A" grades, he struggled to complete schoolwork after the injury. His teachers allowed him to not turn in work while he was recovering—James had a doctor's note—but when "zeros" showed up on James' academic profile on School Loop, Ladera Ranch Middle School's online portal, he got frustrated. (The zeros were temporary.)
"He felt as though he were a failure," says Tom Bogiatzis, school counselor at Ladera Ranch Middle School. "He'd say, 'I'm not going to be successful. I'm not going to be good at anything.'"
James felt like he was falling behind and that his life was over. He became irritable, angry and aggressive, grabbing his father's neck on more than one occasion. He'd randomly chatter his teeth or throw himself on the ground and make strange noises. Sometimes his eyes rolled back uncontrollably. None of this was behavior he'd exhibited prior to his brain injury.

Before the concussion, he had been gentle. He was affectionate and had a sweet disposition. He rescued animals, like Rosie the beagle. One time, he found and returned a neighbor's lost dog. "He was the kind of brother that would give you a big bear hug," says Julia, 17.

But afterward, James grew meaner, shrewder. "This wasn't the gentle kid that I knew," Courtney says. He yearned for isolation, despite the fact that, previously, he had never really liked being alone. He told Lillie, with whom he used to spend hours playing Minecraft, to leave him alone.
The Ransoms were terrified. They couldn't understand what was happening to their child. Let alone understand how to help him. "As a parent, dealing with this, you have no idea what's going on," Greg says. They went from appointment to appointment, seeing neurologists, pediatricians, concussion specialists, psychologists, ophthalmologists, vision therapists, physical therapists, desperate for answers, for relief. But James was still suffering.

James (bottom middle) was affectionate and had a sweet disposition. But after his concussion his parents, Greg (top right) and Courtney (top middle), couldn't understand what was happening to him.Photo courtesy of the Ransom family
Once, he and Courtney were standing on the pavement outside their house, about to get in Courtney's car, when James just began to walk the other direction. "James. Where are you going?" she called after him. "James!" He didn't answer. His mother's words flew right past him. He kept walking down the sidewalk, his body looking like a silhouette under the Southern California sun.
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Dr. Bennet Omalu published the first evidence of CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, in football, in 2005. By the time of James' injury in 2015, the term "CTE" was only just starting to matriculate into the public lexicon. (The movie Concussion, detailing Dr. Omalu's story, was released that year.) Like many parents at the time, Greg and Courtney knew little about CTE. "We didn't even think of it," Greg says. "We didn't think of it at all."
The disease seemed to them like something that was diagnosed in older men, men who had played in the NFL. Former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau had been diagnosed with CTE in 2013, less than a year after he took his life.
A landmark study by Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, published by the American Medical Association in July 2017, found that the incidence of CTE was markedly higher in football players than the general population. Of 202 football players, 177 had CTE. (Of the 111 NFL players included in the study, 110 had CTE.) Since, the disease has been found in cases of football players as young as 17 and 14. Recently, Tyler Hilinski, the former quarterback at Washington State who died by suicide in January, was posthumously found to have had CTE.

The Ransoms never thought about CTE in relation to their eighth-grade son. There was no way to know whether James had it, because the disease can only be diagnosed after death through brain tissue analysis. But he had been diagnosed with a concussion—a traumatic brain injury—and his behavior was growing more worrisome by the day.

One afternoon in October 2015, about a month after James' brain injury, Courtney walked into his room. She saw him lying on his white comforter, head pressed against his white pillow, arms folded across his stomach, eyes staring at the ceiling. The family cat, Meg, lay at his feet.
"It's OK, Buddy. You are going to be OK," she said. "We are going to be able to work this out."
"I don't think so," he said, turning to her, looking her in the eye. Courtney felt a chill. She says she knew in that moment, in the way mothers know things, that her son wanted to take his life.

In late December, Courtney caught him trying to take his life. It wasn't the first time he had done so, however, he would later admit; he had tried on another occasion, unbeknownst to the family. More erratic behavior ensued. In early January, he bolted out of the house, running past six houses and up a hill at the end of the block. Lillie chased after him. When she caught him, he told her they should run away.
The next day, Greg and Courtney took James to nearby UC Irvine's emergency room, and he was admitted to its neuropsychiatric unit. He stayed there, sometimes with one-on-one supervision, for the duration of the month. When James was discharged, Greg and Courtney still worried. Each day they thought, Today, we have to keep him alive. We just have to keep him alive. Sometimes Courtney would fall asleep on the stairs, staying near his room to make sure she didn't lose sight of him.

They drove James to more appointments, more specialists. Determined, devastated, hopeful, afraid. All the time. At any moment they feared their son could try to take his life again, right then, wherever they were. They continued to try to find a treatment. They were willing to give anything—their eyes, their arms, their legs—if that meant it would keep him alive. "I was trying to get through to him," Greg says. "I was trying to tell him: 'We love you. You don't have to do this.'"
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What, exactly, was going on inside James' head? Concussions are known to produce emotional distress. Common symptoms include anger, denial, depression, shock, guilt, paranoia and impaired judgment. A 2014 study found that adolescents who suffered concussions and other traumatic brain injuries are "significantly more likely" to try to kill themselves. In 2016, researchers found that concussions—among other brain injuries—significantly increased the long-term risk of suicide among adults. In 2017, a medical study from Boston University found that those who played youth tackle football before the age of 12 were twice as likely to develop mood and behavioral problems and three times more likely to develop depression in middle age.

The brain doesn't mature until the mid-20s in terms of its physiology and basic biology, as major changes continue to occur through puberty and late adolescence to early adulthood. Blows to the head during that time (and beyond) can alter physical, cognitive and emotional development, according to Dr. Erin D. Bigler, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience at BYU. He has studied concussions for over 40 years.

"You're putting the brain at risk every moment that you're on the field and in practice," Bigler says, "and that is ultimately damaging the brain." The amygdala and hippocampus, both parts of the temporal lobe, are critical for emotional processing and memory. Bigler says those two areas are extremely vulnerable to the effects of concussions.

What those effects are, and how they manifest, is different for each kid, given each kid's genetic background and medical history. James' changes included vision, balance, impulse control and suicidal ideation, but another kid might experience other changes, like depression or anxiety. Some may not even know they are experiencing changes at all—not until later in life. Or ever. Still, those changes may be happening.

But what about the smaller hits that James said he had also taken—the times in which he got his "bell rung" but there was no concussion diagnosis? How much do those undiagnosed—sometimes smaller—hits impact brain function?
"The problem is, is that we don't have real, good, quantitative, physiological evidence about what's happening (in the brain) with a 'bell rung,'" says Dr. James Hicks, a professor at UC Irvine who co-authored a pioneering study about concussions in water polo. "Those are the kind of hits you might take a lot of and not really think about them."
Whether it was a small hit, big hit, a culmination of hits or some other factor that resulted in James' mood swings is not easily discernible. All his parents knew was that the boy they raised—the one who used to hold his mother's hand, who used to scream "I LOOOOOVEEE YOUUUU" to Lillie in the hallway between classes—was suffering.
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A few months after he was released from the neuropsychiatric ward, James seemed to be doing better. He was managing his OCD using techniques he had acquired. He liked his psychiatrist. He was enjoying his personal training sessions, which he had three times a week, feeling active again. He traveled to Washington with his dad. He still had moments of extreme impulsivity, anxiety and erratic behavior but seemed optimistic about the future.
In August, James returned to Ladera Ranch Middle School to start eighth grade. He did well academically. His third-eye palsy seemed to be healing, though his balance was still off. He had a lot of friends. He was 13 and sprouted a foot taller. Girls liked him. Ritner identified him as a potential Student of the Year award winner. "Everything's going to be fine," Lillie thought. "He's going to get through this."

James (left) was smart and curious. "He was brilliant," Meredith Ritner, an English instructor who taught James in the eighth grade, recalls.

But Greg and Courtney were still fearful. They could not let their guard down, not with life and death always in the back of their minds.
The family traveled to Hawaii for Thanksgiving vacation in November. Sometimes James was happy; he laughed, tried to learn how to surf. Other times, he exhibited worrisome behavior. Once, he walked out of the hotel to the balcony and stood there for a while, looking down, a few floors below, in a contemplative state. Courtney, distressed by her son's actions, couldn't help but wonder if he was thinking of jumping.
A few days after returning home, James was back at school, standing with a bunch of students at lunch. A boy in a special-needs class approached him and reached for his chest. But before the boy could make contact, James swatted him away and hit him. The two tussled before teachers stepped in. James was sent to the principal's office, so upset with himself because he was not a fighter. He had never been sent to the principal's office before.
He tried to dust it off, channel his energy. He went to taekwondo with his neighbor and good friend William the next night, as he had begun to engage in light physical activity. James was in good spirits, having received the paper he needed to test for his next belt, yellow. He and William laughed in the car, as they always did, on the way home while playing Bop It. James talked about wanting to surf again.
A few hours later, James was talking with his mother about the incident at school the day before. She told him the kid who approached him was probably jealous of him and that James should act with kindness toward him. James agreed: "He probably is jealous of me." Courtney asked him why. James said: "Because I am smart, funny and people like me."
Later that night, James came downstairs to talk to his mom again, asking about her work, her upcoming projects. He went upstairs to go to bed but then came down again pretty quickly. He said he needed a glass of water. Courtney reminded him to take his medication and his melatonin, so he could get his sleeping schedule back on track. He nodded his head, finishing his glass.
"Goodnight," she said. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
James went upstairs and never came back down.
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When you walk into the Ransoms' house, past the green door with a wreath of lavender and green hydrangeas, a tiny angel in the middle, the first things you notice are photos of James. On the walls. On top of a cabinet. Downstairs. Upstairs. With his sisters. With his parents. With his friends. Smiling in all of them.
"I see him everywhere. I want him everywhere," says Courtney.
It's been nearly two years since James took his life on November 30, 2016. The pain does not lessen as each day passes. "He was just a little boy," Greg says. A tear drops down his cheek. "And now he's gone."
Sometimes, Greg and Courtney replay every moment in their heads, from the hit to everything that came after. They've talked to the parents of James' teammates about what happened on the field. They've spoken with the Stallions' coaches. They've combed through James' account of what happened, wondering what might have been.

It is unclear if any athletic trainers or board-certified physicians were present on that fateful day. "What we are told is that Santa Margarita has at least two CPR / First Aid certified coaches," Brian Heffron, a spokesperson for Pop Warner, wrote in an email. "No one has a memory of the specifics of that game."
Youth sports organizations are not required under state law to report games in which an athletic trainer or board-certified physician is present, so it is unknown how many are typically present at youth games. Two months before James' death, the California legislature passed AB 2007, which required mandatory concussion protocols be followed—including, among other things, the removal of players suspected to have a concussion and that coaches or administrators complete head injury training. (It went into effect January 2017.) And just days before James took his life, Pop Warner launched a "concussion education campaign" and implemented safety measures—such as reducing contact in practice to 25 percent and requiring any player who suffers a suspected head injury to receive medical clearance from a concussion specialist before returning to play. (It is unclear what 25 percent constitutes, or what "suspected" means, or how the protocol is enforced.)
The Ransoms have not brought legal action against the Stallions, Santa Margarita Pop Warner, Pop Warner or the player who hit James. (Pop Warner is currently being sued in a class-action lawsuit for failing to institute safety protocols. The lawsuit is not related to James' death.)

Greg and Courtney have not seen footage, nor have they been able to retrieve it. Pop Warner said "no" when asked, in a written request, if it had video footage to make available. In a statement, Pop Warner wrote: "The loss of a child is heartbreaking and it's hard to imagine the pain the Ransom family has experienced. Our hearts go out to them.
"While football is a very physical sport we have worked hard to make the game safer for young people by instituting major rule changes, including limiting contact in practice, better training for coaches and education for parents and players. Pop Warner's concussion rule, which has been in place since 2010, requires any participant removed from play due to a head injury or suspected concussion to be evaluated and cleared in writing by a currently licensed medical professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussions before they return to play. During games, the home team must provide medical coverage. In the absence of a physician or ambulance on site, the team is required to supply an individual who is EMT qualified or certified in Red Cross Community First Aid and Safety."

The Ransoms have hungered to understand the science behind their son's apparent behavioral changes. But they have not had James' brain studied since his death, so they do not know whether James had CTE. At the time of his death, they didn't think about having his brain studied. It wasn't on their radar. Whether the Ransoms could, years later, still find out if James had CTE is unclear. "It depends on a lot of factors," Chris Nowinski, Ph.D., the co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, explained in an email. "People have been exhumed months after burial for a successful diagnosis."
The knowledge, the Ransoms insist, wouldn't serve any purpose for them.
"Nothing is going to bring James back," Courtney says.

Instead, the Ransoms have taken steps to educate themselves. Courtney pored through articles on the internet, reading blogs of families whose teens died from taking their own life. "After he died, I could not stop searching for answers," she says. Greg learned more about CTE, which led him to consider the effects of other brain trauma that hadn't resulted in CTE.

From Courtney's internet research, a pattern emerged: In many of the cases in which a teen took his or her life, there was a concussion. Many of the accounts seemed to be about young people who were just like James—people who were well-liked, performed well academically, lived "normal" lives that then took a drastic turn that resulted in death. Courtney then talked to other parents about their teenage sons who weren't, as Courtney says, "right," after some sort of concussion in football. She started to wonder if all of these things were connected.
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Researchers in recent years have found that concussions can lead to mental illness and exacerbate symptoms or episodes of mental illness. Sometimes, it only takes a single head injury for mental illness to occur. Among teens, untreated concussions can lead to mental disorders. Not all teens who have suffered concussions develop mental illnesses. Some studies have shown that, for many athletes, mental effects resolve themselves over the long term. But a situation like James' is not out of the realm of possibility.

Though James' behavior changed following the traumatic brain injury suffered on September 12, 2015, the Ransoms will never know for sure what led to James' mental illness, but they want to help other families by telling his story. They have created the James Henry Ransom Foundation to raise money for other teens and adolescents and families struggling with mental illness.

Greg says he understands why people love the game of football and sees how their identities are wrapped up in it. He gets how this game has saved other people's and other families' lives—how it has provided a way out of poverty for some or offered a social connection for others, and how deeply meaningful that can be.
"It's not about being anti-football. We loved football. My son loved football," Greg says.
It's just that, "Football wasn't worth it," he adds.
Ultimately, James' story can help make parents more aware of the risks, Greg says. "If people knew what was happening to their kids, if they saw the bruises that accumulated on their legs, they'd be disturbed by it," Greg says. "But you don't see what's accumulating inside of a skull. You don't see it. … It's an injury people can't see so they pretend it doesn't exist.
"Nobody thinks their son can die playing this game, which they can," Greg adds. "Even if my son hadn't died, we went through hell for a year. Just the awfulness of my son having to go through that. … He didn't have to die for this to be awful."

Mirin Fader is a Writer-At-Large for B/R Mag. She's written for the Orange County Register, espnW.com, SI.com and SLAM Magazine. Her work has been honored by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Follow her on Twitter: @MirinFader.
Editor's note: This piece mistakenly identified Dr. Omalu as having published the first evidence of CTE, though it first emerged in print in 1949 via British neurologist Macdonald Critchley. The article has since been amended to clarify Omalu's work as being specific to football. We regret the error.

DID ONE HIT LEAD TO A 13-YEAR-OLD'S SUICIDE?
https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2795305

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