Austin Trenum was only 17 when he took his own life after having suffered a concussion only a few days earlier. The Washingtonian did a piece about him this week, suggesting that concussions can cause suicide, even in high school students. He was a football player for the Brentsville varsity team in Nokesville, Virginia, and a huge fan of football generally.
It was not the first concussion Austin had gotten while playing football — he’d gotten another one just the year before, during the previous football season. By the time he’d gotten to the ER, he’d seemed perfectly fine. But his behavior showed signs of memory loss and emotional disturbance.
When they took him back to the field, he couldn’t remember who they were playing and he cussed out some of his friends.
A few days afterward, his mom talked to him about his homework and he got uncharacteristically angry and went upstairs, a few minutes later his father followed. Austin had hanged himself.
Austin was generally considered to be quite stable, it was a huge shock to the community when he died. He was generally a happy guy, certainly not depressed. He’d been pulled from the game, kept from strenuous activity, they’d done everything right.
Even more shocking, Chris Nowinski, who has made it his personal mission to understand the impact of concussions on football players, called to ask for Austin’s brain.
Concussions happen because the brain moves around inside your head and helmets cannot protect against that. Up to 20% of high school and college football players get a concussion each season. Most of the time, concussions clear up quickly, but sometimes people suffer post-concussion syndrome, and the more concussions you have, the more likely you are to develop it. One of the effects of post-concussion syndrome? Depression.
And this was Austin’s fourth concussion.
High School Suicides
Austin’s parents, Gil and Michelle, donated Austin’s brain to Boston University and came to the realization that no one was doing anything to stop these concussions. Gil pushed to get a much stricter return-to-play guideline and better concussion education for trainers and students.
Gil and Michelle also got to see Austin’s brain and discovered that it had major damage. Austin’s case isn’t the only one — suicides after head injuries have been documented in the military and among other high school players.
Their younger son continued to play football for a while, with a special chin strap to measure the force of the hits he received. When he sustained a concussion on the field, his parents realized he was at the same risk his brother had been. They won’t let him play football.
Tribute Video to Austin:
Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers
The TBI Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm are currently accepting cases involving brain damage and concussions. Call today for a free consultation. 803.252.4800