New ruling: Steelers' Terry Long killed self by drinking antifreeze
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Terry Long committed suicide by drinking antifreeze, a revised death certificate shows, and his death was not a direct result of football-related head injuries as previously ruled.
The Allegheny County coroner ruled in September that Long, 45, had died of meningitis. The condition, a swelling of the lining of Long's brain, was caused by football-related "chronic traumatic encephalopathy," also known as "punch-drunk syndrome," said the coroner at the time, Dr. Cyril Wecht.
But a revised death certificate, which Wecht's office never publicly announced, was filed Oct. 19, listing the manner of Long's death as suicide from drinking antifreeze. The ruling was changed when outside laboratory tests on Long's tissue and urine showed they contained ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze, county officials said.
The finding was first reported by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office, which was created to take over the coroner's duties earlier this month, confirmed the ruling to The Associated Press on Thursday.
Long died in a hospital about five hours after he was found unresponsive in his suburban Pittsburgh home on June 7.
The cause of death is still listed as swelling of the brain and the brain lining, but drinking the antifreeze is now listed as the primary reason for the fatal brain injuries.
The original findings reinvigorated the debate over the dangers football players -- particularly linemen -- face from repetitive head injuries.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neurologist who worked on Long's autopsy and is still with the medical examiner's office, maintains that football-related injuries contributed to Long's death.
"People with chronic encephalopathy suffer from depression," Omalu told the newspaper. "The major depressive disorder may manifest as suicide attempts. Terry Long committed suicide due to the chronic traumatic encephalopathy due to his long-term play."
Steelers team physician Dr. Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon and nationally recognized expert on concussions, disagrees with Omalu.
"I think it's fallacious reasoning, and I don't think it's plausible at all," Maroon said. "To go back and say that he was depressed from playing in the NFL and that led to his death 14 years later, I think is purely speculative."
Long started at right guard for the Steelers from 1984 until 1991, when he attempted suicide with rat poison after he was suspended for violating the NFL's steroid policy. Long later rejoined the team although he was not re-signed after one season.
In March, Long was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he fraudulently obtained loans for a chicken-processing plant which prosecutors allege he burned to the ground for the insurance money. At the time he died, Long's neighbor said he was separated from his second wife and was depressed about that as well as the federal charges he faced.
That is definitely not the way to kill yourself. That had to be very painful.