Ohio State University football players, wrestlers and other from the community came together to remember the life of Kosta Karageorge, who at age 22, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday. Four days earlier, he had disappeared, leaving his parents and the world only a single clue about what may have caused him to take his own life.
“I am sorry if I am an embarrassment but these concussions have my head all [expletive] up,” the fifth-year senior sent via text message to his parents.
Linda Mulligan, 49, and her 8-year-old grandson found Karageorge’s body in a steel dumpster along with a gun, not far from his apartment complex. The image is one that won’t soon fade for them.
“When she looked in, she saw what had scared him,” the Columbus Dispatch writes of the two’s morbid discovery, “The body of a young man, lying in the near-empty container in a fetal position. A tiny bit of blood from his mouth was dried on his chin.”
“I’d never experienced that feeling,” Mulligan told the paper. “You can’t forget his face.”
Karageorge’s teammates remember that face smiling, though.
Karageorge would always say, ” ‘Yeah, baby! Yeah, baby!’ just before coming out on the field to practice every day,” Ohio State rusher Ezekiel Elliott told the Associated Press on Wednesday. He helped carry Karageorge’s casket from the private funeral at Columbus’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
Karageorge’s wrestling coach, Tom Ryan, echoed similar sentiments leading up to Wednesday after Karageorge was discovered dead.
“He was important to us,” Ryan told Buckeye’s Extra on Monday. “He loved to lift weights and he usually pulled people along with him to lift weights. His impact would have been felt as much in the performance of others as in his performance. He was just one of those guys that you really enjoy having as part of the program.”
The funeral may be over, but Karageorge’s memory will live on. As a tribute to the Buckeye’s nose tackle, the football team will wear Karageorge’s number — No. 53 — during Saturday’s Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. There will also be a moment of silence to remember Karageorge before kickoff.
Karageorge’s death has also sparked further discussion on the effects of concussions on short- and long-term brain health. The coroner told the AP that a “special examination” will be conducted on Karageorge’s brain to look for signs of traumatic injury, which could shed more light on whether the concussions Karageorge complained about may have contributed to his death.
There is still relatively little known about the exact ways concussions and head trauma affects the the brain, but recent studies have shown (and class-action lawsuits have settled) that there are negative correlations between head impact injuries and the brain, which have been connected to depression, dementia and in the most severe cases CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Researchers at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy have diagnosed nine college players and six high school football players with CTE, which signifies the degenerative disease does not need decades to develop.
The NCAA recently addressed some of these concerns when it settled a class-action lawsuit in July and agreed to create a $70 million fund to diagnose current and former college athletes who may have suffered from concussions or other brain trauma while playing contact sports. The NCAA also promised to change its rules regarding the management of athletes who have sustained brain trauma.
That settlement follows the high-profile NFL concussion lawsuit that has the league agreeing to pay at least $765 million to former players or their families that have been affected by brain deterioration caused by concussions and head trauma.
Robert Cantu, who co-chairs BU’s traumatic encephalopathy research, however cautions against making assumptions in this case and in others because the science is still unclear.
“Cantu said there are links between the disease and suicide, but ‘how much of that is due to the brain injury and how much is a reaction to just a terrible thing going on in your life, I don’t think we really can say with absolute certainty,’ ” the Columbus Dispatch writes.