Ex-Missouri State Player Had Severe Brain Trauma

Michael Keck played just two years of college football before he was knocked out during practice at Missouri State and gave the sport up for good.

He turned combative — punching holes in the wall. He began to struggle in school. Soon he was spending most of his time indoors, with blankets covering the windows to darken the room.

Keck died last year at age 25 of what doctors believe was an unrelated heart condition. His brain, at his request, was donated to the Boston University lab that has been researching a degenerative brain condition frequently found in contact-sport athletes.

The disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, had advanced to a stage never before seen in someone so young.

“When you talk in terms of his age, being young, and you talk about his limited years of playing, it is one of the more severe cases,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, a co-founder of the CTE Center at BU. “Had he lived to 70 or 80, we would have expected this to be a Grade 4 (the most severe form) case.”

A star high school linebacker who first went to Missouri before transferring to MSU in 2009, Keck was knocked unconscious during his first fall camp with the Bears.

“After that, things changed for him,” his wife, Cassandra Keck, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Keck began forgetting the play call. He had vision problems. He couldn’t sleep. He began taking medication for head pain. And his personality changed: He was moody, sometimes violent and depressed.

“He told one of the trainers there’s something wrong with his head. They gave him a concussion test and told him to count backward from 20 by threes,” Cassandra Keck said. “Some other players couldn’t do it, either. So they just said football players are dumb.”

Missouri State spokesman Rick Kindhart said the school’s process for treating athletes with suspected head injuries was — and is — “consistent with the current national standards of care.”

“MSU’s athletic training and medical teams work diligently and responsively in each case to ensure all student-athletes receives appropriate care and attention,” Kindhart said. “No student-athlete is ever cleared to return to practice or competition without first being free of concussion symptoms and then going through the appropriate return-to-activity progression process.”

Cassandra Keck, who was pregnant at the time, said coaches told Michael that he was just stressed out because of the baby, a boy who is now 3 and named Justin.

But Michael Keck knew he wasn’t all right.

“I think, if he had it his way, he’d still be playing,” associate head coach D.J. Vokolek told the student newspaper, The Standard, when Keck left the team in March 2011. “But it had gotten to the point that he was having so many concussions that it could affect him the rest of his life. After consulting with the doctors, we came to the conclusion that it was time for him to call it quits.”

Things only got worse.

“When he stopped playing, he became the bad seed,” Cassandra Keck said. “If they drank together, there ended up being holes in the wall. The next few years, people stopped coming around. People didn’t want to be around him anymore.”

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26 August 2014 | 1:06 pm – Source: abcnews.go.com

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