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Mother Of College Football Player Who Committed Suicide, And Had Brain Disease, To Testify At Congressional Hearing

This Thursday’s Congressional hearing on youth sports concussions will have an especially interesting witness: the mother of the University of Pennsylvania football player who committed suicide, and was found to be suffering from the same brain disease nearly two dozen pro football players had.

The Rev. Kathy Brearley, mother of Owen Thomas, will testify at the hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee, The New York Times reported Saturday. Next week’s hearing will be the eighth one on athletes and concussions since October.

Owen Thomas’ life and death raises troubling new questions about brain injury and football. The 21-year-old took his own life in April, and tests were done on his brain tissue. The news was released last week that Thomas had begun to develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease linked to repeated brain injury that often leads to depression and impulse control issues. 

The discovery was disturbing in that Thomas had never been diagnosed with a concussion, was still young at 21 and was only playing college football, not in the NFL.    

 The Congressional committee is weighing a law that would mandate that all public schools implement a concussion safety plan for all sports, offer special education for the injured who still have symptoms, and remove athletes immediately from practice and games if they are suspected of having a concussion, according to The Times.

The Times also cited particularly grim statistics from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina: Roughly 32 high school and youth football players died or made incomplete recovery from head injuries from 2006 to 2009, double the number from the prior four-year period. 

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