Thursday, January 26, 2006
Ex-Steeler Long drank antifreeze to commit suicide
PITTSBURGH -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Terry Long
committed suicide by drinking antifreeze, a revised death
certificate shows, and did not die as a direct result of
football-related head injuries.
The Allegheny County coroner ruled in September that Long, 45,
who had attempted suicide before, had died of meningitis. The
condition, a swelling of the lining of Long's brain, was caused by
football-related "chronic traumatic encephalopathy," also known
as "punch-drunk syndrome," said the coroner at the time, Dr.
But a revised death certificate, which Wecht's office never
publicly announced, was filed Oct. 19, listing the manner of Long's
death as suicide from drinking antifreeze. The ruling was changed
when outside laboratory tests on Long's tissue and urine showed
they contained ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in
antifreeze, county officials said.
Joseph Dominick, chief of operations at the medical examiner's
office, said Thursday that the antifreeze was what caused the
swelling of the brain and the brain lining, and the
football-related brain injuries were a contributing factor to the
The finding was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on
Long died in a hospital about five hours after he was found
unresponsive in his suburban Pittsburgh home on June 7.
The original findings reinvigorated the debate over the dangers
football players -- particularly linemen -- face from repetitive head
The medical examiner felt Long's history of brain injury was
still a "significant factor" in the death and that he would be
remiss in not mentioning it in the updated report, Dominick said.
"People with chronic encephalopathy suffer from depression,"
Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neurologist who worked on Long's autopsy and is
still with the medical examiner's office, told the newspaper. "The
major depressive disorder may manifest as suicide attempts. Terry
Long committed suicide due to the chronic traumatic encephalopathy
due to his long-term play."
But Steelers team physician Dr. Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon
and nationally recognized expert on concussions, disagreed with
"I think it's fallacious reasoning, and I don't think it's
plausible at all," Maroon said. "To go back and say that he was
depressed from playing in the NFL and that led to his death 14
years later, I think is purely speculative."
Long started at right guard for the Steelers from 1984 until
1991, when he attempted suicide with rat poison after he was
suspended for violating the NFL's steroid policy. Long later
rejoined the team although he was not re-signed after one season.
In March, Long was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges
he fraudulently obtained loans for a chicken-processing plant which
prosecutors allege he burned to the ground for the insurance money.
At the time he died, Long's neighbor said he was separated from his
second wife and was depressed about that as well as the federal
charges he faced.