Benoit's Dad, Doctors: Multiple Concussions Could Be Connected to Murder-Suicide

Chris Benoit, the world-famous wrestler, was an enormous public success, but Benoit also appeared to be a devoted parent, according to his father, Michael Benoit.

"What you saw in the ring was not the Chris Benoit on the outside," Michael told ABC's Bob Woodruff. "He loved to be at home, playing with his children. That's where he wanted to be."

So, when Michael first learned the horrific news of his son's death, the details made no sense to him.

"He phoned me on Father's Day, which was a week before [his death]. … And he said, 'Unfortunately, Dad, I'm on the road. It's Father's Day today, I wish I was home, with my family,'" Michael recalled. "A week later, we end up with this tragedy."

It was in his own home, over a June weekend, that the seemingly happy family man did the unthinkable. Benoit suffocated his wife and son, then killed himself, and his father is still shocked by what happened.

"We would've never, never dreamt that Chris was capable of doing this," he said.

Devastated in his grief, and plagued by unanswered questions, a surprising single phone call offered Michael a small ray of light. Four days after the tragedy, Michael says Chris Nowinski, of the Sports Legacy Institute, contacted him.

"I told him I think there was something worth investigating," said Nowinski. "That I thought brain injuries may have played a role in what happened … and it was worth doing the studies."

"I was grasping for anything," Michael said. "The world was very black. I mean, we were, we didn't even know how to deal with this."

'More Concussions Than He Could Count'

Nowinski has studied the long-term effects of concussions on the brain. It's a life mission for the former professional wrestler who has struggled with the effects of his own multiple concussions.

"It was the cumulative effects from all of [the concussions], combined with the fact that the last one — I didn't know that I needed to rest my concussion when I got it," Nowinski said. "So, for three weeks, I kept wrestling night after night with bad headaches, and in a fog every night, and it made that one a lot worse."

Nowinski knew he couldn't be the only wrestler suffering this way, and said he and Benoit had discussed their respective concussions.

"The reason that I … really wanted to look into this case was because Chris had told me that, you know, we talked about our concussion histories, that he had more than he could count," Nowinski said.

The Sports Legacy Institute has studied the brains of four NFL players who committed suicide, and found — in their opinion — that the players' brains were badly damaged, resulting in a dementia that, doctors say, looks similar to Alzheimer's. They speculate that the dementia, itself, may cause suicidal tendancies, and, possibly, even homicide.

Nowinski said that doctors have only recently begun to realize that "concussions can affect your brain in such a drastic way … at such a young age."

He added that molecular sections of Benoit's brain showed the same results as the other athletes who had all committed suicide. (Click here to read more on this story from ESPN The Magazine).

Brain Trauma, Not 'Roid Rage?

Dr. Julian Bailes, who works with Nowinski, examined Benoit's brain by using a unique staining method that highlights areas of trauma. The condition they found is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Bailes said they found damage that was the result of "multiple traumatic injuries."

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