health & wellness
Sports And Depression
Former Lion quarterback, doctor to
discuss links between head injuries
Special to the Jewish News
Alicia R. Nelson (248) 557-0109
was hit and hurt so many times, I
could no longer move fast enough
to evade the rush:'
Eric Hipple, former quarterback of
the Detroit Lions, was talking about
being forced to retire from the Lions
when he was "no longer competitive:'
On Dec. 9, he will team up with
Jeff Kutcher, M.D., as speakers at
the upcoming symposium, "Sports,
Head Injury and Depression" at the
Danto Auditorium of the University
of Michigan Cardiovascular Center.
Sponsored by the Maimonides group
of the Jewish Federation of Greater
Ann Arbor, it is open to the public.
After Hipple retired, he ran a suc-
cessful insurance business, but he went
into debt. Feelings of hopelessness
took over, and he jumped out of a
moving car in a suicide attempt, creat-
ing a splash in the Detroit newspapers
and on television. He recovered with-
out major injury, but soon after, his
15-year-old son took his own life.
Hipple was drafted by John Greden,
M.D., director of the U-M Depression
Center and former chair of the U-M
Department of Psychiatry, as a spokes-
person for the Center's effort to reduce
the stigma of help-seeking behavior by
In 2009, Hipple convinced the
National Football League Players
Association (NFLPA) to allow him to
survey former players about depres-
sion. Among 1,600 responders, 15
percent indicated signs of moderate
to severe depression, higher than the
percentage in age-matched men in the
Faced with this alarming informa-
tion, the NFLPA decided to sponsor
a program in which athletes would
be invited to come for assessment of
depression at the U-M Depression
Center. For the past 18 months, former
NFL players have been coming to Ann
Arbor to be evaluated and connected
with appropriate support systems in
their own communities.
Just how much is known about
concussions, confused thinking and
depression? That has been the special
interest of Kutcher, associate profes-
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sor of neurology at U-M, who joins
Hipple at the Maimonides podium on
Dec. 9. Kutcher is director of Michigan
NeuroSport, a U-M sports neurology
program devoted to research, educa-
tion and clinical care. On football
Saturdays, you can spot him on the
sidelines with the U-M football team,
waiting to check out a dazed player as
he comes off the field.
When he started in the field eight
years ago, Kutcher found that most
sports programs were testing players
with a complicated 30-minute bat-
tery of tasks to screen for symptoms
of brain concussion. "I took the test
myself and was surprised at how dif-
ficult it was, and I didn't have a con-
cussed brain:' he said.
The question everyone asks him now
is how much of the depression being
uncovered among former football play-
ers is due to repeated brain concussion?
That issue is still unsettled, he answers.
Kutcher has put much of his energy
into improving recognition of head
injury. Is that enough or should the
rules of football (and other contact
sports) be modified? He doesn't think
so, replying that we still do not have
scientific evidence that shows that
brain damage is very prevalent after
playing by today's rules. Would he let
his sons play football? If that was their
love, then with the proper education of
the coaching staff and the appropriate
resources, he would.
"When you ask people who have
played football in college or profes-
sionally if they would do it again, they
almost always say, 'Yes, absolutely!"
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December 6 • 2012