A new movie will soon reveal a doctor’s fight to expose the dangers of football. A Johnson County knows these dangers all too well.
The movie, Concussion, focuses on CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
That very disease is the reason an Overland Park family is grieving their son. 26-year-old Zack Langston shot and killed himself almost two years ago.
After testing his brain, doctors found it was full of CTE.
Zack’s mother, Nicki Langston, said her son mentioned to her before his death that he believed football contributed to his struggle.
"He did mention to me, I think this has something to do with football. I think football did cause this,” Langston said.
Zack was an outside linebacker who played at Blue Valley Northwest High School and Pittsburg State University.
He was strong, determined, and repeatedly took intense hits.
After graduating college, Zack changed. His mother and then-girlfriend and mother of his 3-year-old son, Drake, both knew something was very wrong.
Nicki said her son would become suddenly angry, anxious, confused.
Dr. Michael Moncure from the University of Kansas Hospital studies concussions and brain trauma. He said those are the symptoms of CTE.
"You're talking about a person that has depicted abnormal behavior and has head trauma, and then you do an autopsy and they have neurotangles, that looks similar to Alzheimer’s disease but a little bit different,” Dr. Moncure explained.
Zack’s brain was tested by scientists at Boston University. Results showed it to be full of CTE.
“We weren't surprised, at all. But I felt a tremendous amount of comfort and relief,” said Danae Young, Zack’s college girlfriend and mother of his three-year-old son.
"At least we know. At least we know why this happened,” Langston said.
The Langston family still loves football, but wants the world to know there is a devastating and often unrecognized reality to America’s most popular sport.
“To me, I think I'm honoring Zack by spreading awareness, because I do think he would have wanted this known,” Langston said. "I truly feel he would be very happy knowing that something good is coming of this."
The family has tickets to see the new movie Concussion on Christmas Day.
Lexi Sutter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.