Tag: Ryan Freel

Ryan Freel: Tragic Death Reminder That Head Injuries Are Danger to All Athletes

The sports world was tasked with trying to learn from another tragedy on Saturday when former Cincinnati Reds utility man Ryan Freel was found dead in his apartment. 

Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports) reported, “Freel, who was 36, died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted shotgun wound.”

Freel was a popular player throughout his career due to his reckless style. But playing without fear did not come without consequences, and Kay notes that Freel “once estimated he had sustained up to 10 concussions.” 

Currently, there has been no autopsy or official cause of death released, and there is absolutely no current evidence to link Freel’s tragic death with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain diseased caused by repeated head injury.

But when an athlete who was adored and looked up to during his career dies by his own hand, the public tries to make sense of the incident. As was the case with Jovan Belcher‘s and Jerry Brown’s deaths, the country wondered what could be learned from these types of tragedies. 

Belcher’s murder/suicide sparked a conversation about a gun culture in sports, while the car accident that led to Brown’s death caused discussions about the prevalence of drunken driving among professional athletes.

With Freel’s death, head injuries and CTE will be the focus of a national conversation. 

Slate’s Daniel Engber raises important questions about the lack of conclusive findings linking suicides to CTE and notes that there are many factors in a person’s life that can lead to suicide. In the case of Junior Seau’s death earlier this year, he writes, “Seau was beset with a smorgasbord of risk factors for suicide, regardless of the state of his brain.”

But a growing amount of research from organizations such as the Sports Legacy Institute is providing more answers about the disease. While it may be difficult at this to identify a history of concussions as the sole—or even main—cause of a suicide, SLI’s website notes, “The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.” 

The conflicting opinions on the impact of CTE on professional athletes is one of the most intriguing and important debates in sports, and Freel’s tragic death adds important insight into the conversation. 

Whether or not evidence is found proving that he suffered from the disease, his death follows the basic pattern of athletes such as Dave Duerson and Mike Webster: a history of serious head injuries followed by a suicide several years after retirement.

But Freel was a baseball player, not a football player. The current conversation surrounding CTE is centered almost entirely around football, and the majority of the athletes brought up as examples of those who suffered from the disease are NFL alumni.

SLI’s website notes that the condition was originally known as “punch drunk syndrome” and was thought to occur mainly in boxers. Now, football players are the poster children for head injuries, but the conditions surrounding Freel’s death should serve as a reminder that athletes in all sports are at risk.

People who play baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey and a number of other sports for a living all put themselves in positions to sustain repeated head injuries across the course of their career.

CTE is not a problem exclusive to football players, and that is one lesson that should be taken away from Freel’s tragic death. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ryan Freel: Former Baseball Star Dies at Age 36

The Major League Baseball world was dealt a sad blow Saturday night with the death of former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ryan Freel.

Firstcoastnews.com reporter Chad Cushnir had the report:

First Coast News sports director Dan Hicken has learned that Ryan Freel, a Jacksonville native and former Major League Baseball has died at the age of 36.  The cause of death is suicide.

The Florida Times-Union reporters Justin Barney and Dana Treen gave more details on this sad situation:

Freel, 36, was found dead from a self-inflicted shotgun blast around 4 p.m. in his residence on Brookchase Lane in Jacksonville, Sgt. Mike Paul of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

Paul said that there was nothing suspicious and authorities were treating Freel’s death as a suicide.

Certain events put things into perspective, even for the most avid baseball fans. Saturday’s news hits home because of its tragic nature, but also because Freel was just 36 years old.

The report mentions that, following his retirement in 2009, “Freel was a part of an organization on the First Coast called BLD Baseball which stands for Big League Development. Through this organization, Freel coached local youth baseball players.” 

Even after retirement, he managed to show how much he loved the game of baseball by passing his knowledge down to the next generation of players.

In his eight-year career, Freel hit .268 with 22 home runs, 143 stolen bases and 122 RBI. He played six seasons with the Reds, but he also played with four other teams as well. 

He was a player who always brought a ton of heart and effort to the field for each and every game. His speed set him apart, but he was a valuable player wherever he went.

This is sad news no matter how you cut it. Details are not available regarding the specific situation, but more information should become available in the coming days.

Freel’s heart and tenacity on the diamond were unmatched.

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to his family, friends and former teammates during this trying time. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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