Erik Kramer attempted suicide on Thursday, Aug. 20, after struggling with severe depression for years. His ex-wife, Marshawn, is convinced that his brain was injured during his football career, and the injury made him experience such a difficult turmoil that he turned to suicide as a way out of life. Also, Marshawn always had difficulty accepting his state of mind and said she divorced him after 25 years because of his depression. Kramer’s son, Griffen, was a victim of suicide who took his own life in a friend’s home on Oct. 30, 2011. Four teenagers were arrested the following month for possessing and distributing heroin to Griffen, and for calling other teenagers to ask for help instead of an ambulance.
The 50-year old, ex-NFL player had retired in 1999 after playing for 13 seasons. He has always adored his children, both his deceased, 18-year old son and his 17-year old son, Dillon, who is still with him. The woman who divorced Kramer in 2010 had been dating him in high school, too, and says with certainty that he “would not do this to his son,” and that he must be experiencing chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It was determined that the same condition developed in former NFL players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson because of repeated head trauma from football, and it influenced them to take their own lives. Additionally, Marshawn believes that the same predicament is the source of the depression Kramer has been going through, even though their eldest son had committed suicide himself, likely as a result of depression, a state that can be genetically influenced. On a side note, Kramer’s sister had told his ex-wife that the gunshot had drawn him into a medically induced coma and made his physical condition seem a lot worse than the police had initially reported. At this moment, the only proven physical disability on his record is severe neck injury from his time with the Chicago Bears.
CTE progressively degenerates brain tissue with head trauma. It comes with multiple concussions and has been reported to cause confusion, paranoia, aggression, memory loss, impaired judgment and impulse control, depression, and continuously worsening dementia. It can also cause verbal and coordination disabilities, as well as suicidal intention. Confirmed diagnoses can only be determined with deceased victims in the present research state, but the affected living brain tissue builds up with the protein tau, which intertwines in the cerebral cortex, and around blood vessels and crevices. Tau then digs deeper within the brain, and impairs the hippocampus, amygdala, and eventually the spinal cord; respectively affecting memory and learning ability, emotions and impulses, and movement. From 1928 to 2009, there were only 49 known cases of CTE, but 39 of the people were boxers. The rest had suffered from seizures or continually banged their heads. Currently, there is no treatment available, but neurodegenerative disease experts and neuroscientists are utilizing a bank with at least 170 athletes’ and soldiers’ brains to try to find solutions.
CTE might have controlled Kramer’s hand in firing the gun, but it is not certain that he is haunted by the disease since it is undiagnosable in living victims. Kramer survived his attempt on his life, but if his source of depression is the chronic condition CTE, then he may have more harmful instances to come. Other athletes have suffered from the condition and have reportedly committed suicide, so, based on the statistics, it could be possible that his ex is right, however tragic it may be. Thankfully, he has retired from football, eliminating the additional pressure and physical strain which could impact his mental and physiological well-being.
By Jarick Roaderick
Sports Legacy: What Is CTE?
Heavy: Marshawn Kramer, Erik’s Ex-wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
ESPN: Four Charged in Griffen Kramer’s Death
NBC News: Ex-NFL QB Erik Kramer Wounded in Apparent Suicide Attempt
CBS Chicago: Former Bears QB Injured in Apparent Suicide Attempt
Photo Courtesy Of Elvert Barnes’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License