RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Mary Ann and Ray Easterling were married for 36 years. Ray played for the Atlanta Falcons from 1972 – 1979 and was part of the team’s “Grits Blitz” defense in 1977. That team set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season.
Last year, at the age of 62, Easterling died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. An autopsy revealed he had a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions.
“He could recall those times when he lost consciousness," Mary Ann said. "What happened with him, he was laid out, given smelling salt, he started walking to the sideline, and ended up walking to the San Francisco 49ers sideline."
Now a new study might help Easterling and others suing the NFL for failing to do enough to protect football players from concussions.
Boston University's School of Medicine studied the brains of dead athletes including football players. The autopsies revealed individuals with repeated head trauma had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or “CTE.”
“CTE starts right here in the frontal lobe,” Easterling said.
She hoped the study will help to families in need.
“I have friends whose husbands are suffering and their families are suffering. I want there to be an answer so that families can have hope, “ she said.
Meanwhile, CBS News reported that in September, the NFL put $30 million into research for treatment disorders, possibly including CTE, which would benefit athletes later in life.