Benoit's Brain Showed Severe Damage From Multiple Concussions, Doctor and Dad Say

Doctors say test results on wrestler's brain may explain murder-suicide.

ByABC News via logo
January 8, 2009, 12:13 AM

Sept. 5, 2007 — -- The family of Chris Benoit has been searching for answers since late June, when the professional wrestler killed his wife, 7-year-old son and then himself.

At the crime scene, police found anabolic steroids prompting many to suspect that "roid rage" had accounted for Benoit's behavior, which his family found out of character for the 40-year-old.

His family now believes that new test results on Benoit's brain explain his vicious actions.

The tests, conducted by Julian Bailes of the Sports Legacy Institute, show that Benoit's brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient.

Bailes and his research team say that this damage was the result of a lifetime of chronic concussions and head trauma suffered while Benoit was in the wrestling ring.

Benoit's father, Michael Benoit, is speaking out in order to warn other athletes, both professional and student.

After hearing the news that his son had murdered his 7-year-old son, Daniel, and wife Nancy and then killed himself, Michael Benoit struggled to understand how it could have happened.

Michael says Benoit was a "kind and gentle" man who volunteered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and visited U.S. troops overseas in Iraq.

"First we needed an understanding. The person that did this is not the man we know and love," Michael said today on "Good Morning America."

After the suicide and murders, Michael was contacted by a former wrestler, who suggested he investigate whether years of trauma to Benoit's brain could have contributed to his actions.

"I was grasping for anything," Michael told ABC News' Bob Woodruff. "The world was very black. I mean, we didn't even know how to deal with this."

So Michael turned over part of his son's brain to Bailes, the head of neurosurgery at West Virginia University and former Pittsburgh Steelers team physician.

Bailes and his research team had also analyzed the brains of former NFL players such as Andre Waters and Terry Long, who both committed suicide. Bailes and his colleagues theorize that repeated concussions can lead to dementia, which can contribute to severe behavioral problems.

"There is a constant theme in the failure of their personal lives, their business lives, depression and then ultimately suicide," Bailes said.