Penn `Deeply Concerned' Over Report Deceased Footballer Had Brain Trauma

The University of Pennsylvania said it’s “deeply concerned” about a New York Times report that football co-captain Owen Thomas, who committed suicide in April, had a trauma-induced brain disease.

Thomas, a 21-year-old junior defensive end, hanged himself in his off-campus apartment. Friends and family said Thomas, who had no previous history of depression, had a “sudden and uncharacteristic emotional collapse,” according to the Times.

Doctors at Boston University examined Thomas’s brain tissue and found early stages of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease found in more than 20 deceased National Football League players, the Times said yesterday on its website. The disease is linked to depression and a lack of impulse control among NFL players, two of whom committed suicide in the past 10 years, the Times said.

“While we will never know the cause of Owen Thomas’s depression and subsequent suicide, we are aware of and deeply concerned about the medical issues now being raised about football head injuries,” University spokeswoman Lori Doyle said in a statement. We “will continue to work with the Ivy League and the medical community in addressing these issues.”

The doctors who conducted the autopsy cautioned that Thomas’s suicide shouldn’t be primarily attributed to his brain damage, the Times added.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Thomas helped lead Penn to the 2009 Ivy League championship and finished second in the league with six quarterback sacks.

Penn opens its season Sept. 18 against Lafayette.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at

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