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Head Case 

Experts say ex-football players with head injuries often end up in the criminal justice system. Former USC lineman Chris Brymer is exhibit A.

Wednesday, Sep 29 2010
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Seth Steward, spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney's office, says prosecutors are careful to evaluate a defendant's mental capacity, particularly as it relates to his state of mind and intentions when an alleged crime was committed. "We definitely take that stuff into consideration," he says. In Brymer's case, however, Steward says it's unclear whether any mental disorder is present in the first place: "I don't even know if we have any evidence of that yet."

The people's case against Chris Brymer, the offensive guard who fell apart after years of protecting others on the field, begins just a few days from now. Regardless of its results, the punishment Brymer's mental and emotional snap has exacted on himself and those close to him can already be tallied.

Melissa Brymer, for one, feels sick as she watches the 7-year-old child she had with Chris — who is not allowed to make contact with his son, according to court restrictions following their divorce — grow to resemble his absent dad more and more. "He's already a foot taller than everyone else in his class. He looks like a lineman already, and I'm terrified," she says.

Chris Brymer's situation, like that of other former football players coping with probable CTE, creates uncomfortable questions for those who watch, play, or make money from our preferred national spectacle. To what extent are we complicit in the havoc football might be wreaking on individual lives? What special consideration do we owe the sport's broken athletes, in the courtroom or outside it?

For Melissa Brymer, who witnessed the aftermath of her ex-husband's professional sports career, the question raised by CTE is more immediate. Will she let her boy play football, running the same risks as his father?

"I could never see my son turn hollow like that," she says. "I do not want him anywhere near the sport."

About The Author

Peter Jamison

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