Family donates Murdock's brain to study at Boston University
TAMPA - The family of O.J. Murdock has donated his brain tissue to researchers studying the effects of repetitive traumatic head injuries. Murdock, a former star wide receiver for Middleton High who went on to sign an NFL contract with the Tennessee Titans, died July 30 from an apparent self-inflicted gun wound to his head while sitting in his car just outside the fence of the football field he played on as a teen. His mother, Jamesena Murdock, said she made the decision to participate in the ongoing study shortly after her son died at Tampa General Hospital. She said she was contacted by officials from Boston University, which is conducting research in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). "I'm an organ donor and I just believe it's the right thing to do," Jamesena Murdock said. "If O.J. can help someone still living, he was the type of person who would've wanted to do this."The study being conducted at Boston University also has received a brain tissue donation from the family of former NFL star Junior Seau, who died last May in San Diego from a gunshot wound to the chest. Tampa police say the investigation into Murdock's death is ongoing but officials in San Diego ruled Seau's death a suicide. Seau's death was eerily similar to that of another ex-NFL standout, Dave Duerson. In February 2011, Duerson shot himself in the chest and left a suicide note requesting his brain be studied for brain trauma. The Boston research group eventually discovered Duerson's brain had developed the same trauma-induced disease recently found in several other deceased NFL players CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive blows to the head. These hits can result in concussions, but not always. Since the 1920s, CTE has been known to affect boxers, but recent studies have confirmed the disease in retired football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma can trigger progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, which, over time, can result in multiple symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, aggression, depression and progressive dementia. Murdock's high school coach, Harry Hubbard, says he does not remember his star receiver ever suffering a concussion during his prep career. However, Murdock's college coach at Fort Hays State in Kansas, Al McCray, said Murdock did sustain a mild concussion near the end of his last season there in the fall of 2010. "He hit the ground with his head pretty hard and gave us a good scare," McCray said. "But he was a tough kid. As soon as he got cleared by doctors a few days later, he said he wanted to play the next game." Murdock's father, Kelvin Murdock, was a former all-state receiver at Robinson High and two-time all-conference performer at Troy State. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in 1982. He said he did not recall his son receiving any concussions besides the one at Fort Hays State. He said the physical nature of football, including knocks to the head that do not result in concussions, is a constant factor players deal with, from the youth level to the pros. Jamesena said besides the donation of brain tissue to the CTE study, she also has donated her son's useable tissue to the local LifeLink Tissue Bank.