Almost one year ago, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player, died as a result of a toxic cocktail of alcohol and prescription drugs he consumed at the home of a friend. He was 30.
His autopsy revealed that the National Football League (NFL) player had a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the same degenerative neurological disease that has been definitively linked to repeated blows to so many football players’ brains.
A sad season
Unlike many former NFL-ers who had no idea what was occurring, it appears that Te’o-Nesheim left a paper trail detailing his challenges to cope with managing his injuries from playing NFL football.
His sister sorted through the former defensive lineman’s belongings after his death. She discovered a plastic container with multiple journal pages written during his pro football career. They were a catalog of injuries and the treatments that ultimately failed to repair the damage he suffered playing the game that he loved. The collection included:
- text messages
- voice messages
All described the athlete’s symptoms of memory lapses, disorientation, paranoia and inappropriate outbursts that he suffered during the final years of his life due to the numerous concussions and sub-concussive blows he suffered during his football career.
Personality changes in Tampa evident
Family agrees that he changed once he hit Tampa. The sunny disposition gave way to depression and distrust.
He had his share of painful orthopedic injuries and approximately 100 concussions and at least 10 knock-outs. The drugs he took for pain management also contributed to his mood swings.
But no one initially attributed these changes to the blows he received playing contact sports since childhood. It was his agent who suggested that he keep a list of injuries and symptoms that might be useful if he needed to apply for disability benefits later.
Too little, too late
He never got that chance. Living an untethered life without football to anchor him worsened his depressive state. He constantly rotated through hotel rooms in the area, usually trashing them, along with laptops that he was sure were bugged by some nebulous agencies or individuals.
His return to Hawaii was tarnished by his struggles. He sought help from the NFL but they were dismissive. He was denied “line of duty” benefits. Eventually, he ended his life with drink and drugs.
The following day, the NFL issued their denial of benefits letter to Te’o-Nesheim. As stated, his injuries weren’t numerous or severe enough to qualify. Months after he had died, the NFL approved those same benefits for the now-deceased player.
If you or your child suffered repeated blows to the head playing sports and if CTE is suspected, you may be able to pursue some legal options for compensation.