Former Miami Dolphins receiver Mark "Super" Duper, who spent more than a decade as one of Dan Marino's favorite targets in the 1980s and early 1990s, has become the ninth living player diagnosed with signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Duper learned of his diagnosis from UCLA researchers who are working on developing a reliable test for CTE, per William Weinbaum and Steve Delsohn of ESPN.
"It was shocking," Duper said. "I hoped nothing was wrong. I've had memory things where I would go to the store and forget what I went for. And I have emotional swings and panic attacks."
Duper was drafted in the second round by Miami in 1982, playing each of his 11 NFL seasons with the franchise. He made three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams, all of which coincided with the beginning of Marino's career. During that time, the Dolphins emerged as one of the NFL's first high-volume passing attacks.
Duper was part of the "Marks Brothers" tandem with Mark Clayton, who was a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. The duo were inducted into the Dolphins' Honor Roll together in 2003.
Duper's NFL career ended after the 1992 season, and he finished with 511 receptions, 8,869 yards and 59 touchdowns. He spent a short time with the Miami Hooters of the Arena Football League following his NFL retirement. Though Duper, 54, doesn't have a sustained record of concussions throughout his pro career, he's speaking out after his diagnosis to raise awareness.
CTE, a degenerative brain condition that is widely associated with consistent head trauma, has direct ties to memory loss, early onset dementia and depression. Boston University, led by former WWE wrestler and football and Harvard graduate Chris Nowinski and Dr. Ann McKee, has found that athletes who participate in high-contact sports—boxing, football, etc.—are exponentially more prone to CTE than typical human beings.
Their research has found that an overwhelming percentage of former NFL players suffer from CTE, as highlighted in the PBS documentary League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis.
Until earlier this year, CTE was only diagnosable in deceased patients. However, a pilot study done at UCLA on five former NFL players in January created progress in diagnosing the disease in living patients and creating inroads on better understanding how long-term brain injuries work. The doctors are able to diagnose the athletes by using a new brain scan, which can identify the proteins usually associated with CTE.
Duper is the fourth former player to have publicly admitted being tested at UCLA. Tony Dorsett, Joe DeLamielleure and Leonard Marshall—all former All-Pros like Duper—have confirmed their testing and diagnosis of CTE symptoms.
"I've thought about crazy stuff, sort of like, 'Why do I need to continue going through this?'" Dorsett, one of the most recognizable and decorated running backs of his time, told Weinbaum and Delsohn. "I'm too smart of a person, I like to think, to take my life, but it's crossed my mind."
Suicide has been the option for many prominent NFL players, most notably former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau. Duper, who battled drug issues in the past, has shared Dorsett's mindset on taking his own life.
"Once upon a time, everybody has thought about suicide, but I am not going to do it," Duper said, per Weinbaum and Delsohn.
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