On Thursday, the Boulder County Coroner's Office ruled the death of former NFL running back Rashaan Salaam a suicide. After struggling with depression for many years, Salaam’s body was found in Boulder, Colorado on December 5th with one gunshot wound to the head. Whether or not his depression and suicide were the result of chronic head trauma (CTE) from playing football remains unknown. Due to his family's Muslim faith and adherence to Islamic burial rituals which forbid desecration of the body, Salaam's brain was not donated for CTE evaluation.
CTE first made headlines several years ago when it was found in the brains of retired NFL players who had killed themselves. Last year, the controversial research of forensic patholoist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered the degenerative brain disease, was highlighted in the film Concussion starring Will Smith. In an interview with USA Today, Salaam's brother Jabali Alaji commented that Salaam had "all the symptoms" associated with CTE.
Despite his premature death, Salaam’s legacy lives on. After winning the 1994 Heisman Trophy for rushing 2,055 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns in his final season at the University of Colorado, Salaam was selected as a first round pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, completing four NFL seasons as a running back for the Chicago Bears and the Cleveland Browns. The Colorado Buffaloes honored Salaam at the Alamo Bowl on Thursday night, with a decal displaying his initials above the No. 19 he wore.
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