A report released this week about former Reds player Ryan Freel concludes that the high-energy outfielder had been suffering from a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he committed suicide last year. The website SportsNet re-published an article by reporter Brett Popplewell that offers a stunning narrative of Freel’s life and final few days. Warning: It’s not light holiday reading.
CTE is a brain disease that, thus far, can be diagnosed with certainty only post-mortem. Here are the symptoms:
Dr. Ann C. McKee, Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, wrote in “Brain,” a scientific-journal, that “CTE is clinically associated with symptoms of irritability, impulsivity, aggression, depression, short-term memory loss and heightened suicidality that usually begin eight to 10 years after experiencing repetitive mild traumatic brain injury.”
Dr. McKee, who mainly studies the brains of deceased football players and military veterans, has been described both as someone trying to kill football and also the one who can save it. Research is showing CTE to be a tragic byproduct of professional sports broadly and now, with Ryan Freel as its first documented case, in major league baseball.
Ryan Freel’s family found out about the study’s conclusions on the same day that MLB announced home plate collisions were no longer allowed, beginning next season. The rule change has received support from most quarters, including from former catchers who are now big league managers. Johnny Bench, catcher for the Big Red Machine, explained his strong support for the new rule in an interview with Dan Patrick.
One vocal critic of the rule change was Bench’s teammate Pete Rose, who wondered, “What’s the game coming to?” Pete went on to say in an interview with Hal McCoy, “I’ve thought and thought about it. The only concussions I can remember recently in baseball is Justin Morneau, and he got that sliding into second base.”
Charlie Hustle, meet Devin Mesoraco.