COLUMBUS, Ohio — A neuropathologist will look for signs of traumatic brain injury in an Ohio State athlete who was found dead in a trash bin of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and had a reported history of concussions, a coroner said on Dec. 1.
The examination, not normally part of the autopsy process, is being done on Kosta Karageorge because of that history, said Dr. Anahi Ortiz, the Franklin County Coroner.
The pathologist “may or may not be able to determine any sort of abnormality or defect from traumatic brain injury,” Ortiz said.
Preliminary results from a Dec. 1 autopsy confirmed that Karageorge died of a gunshot wound, Ortiz said, but she hasn’t yet definitively ruled it a suicide.
However, Columbus police said that Karageorge died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A handgun was found in the trash bin with him, police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner said.
His mother, Susan Karageorge, told police her son had had several concussions and a few spells of being extremely confused.
Players knew of Karageorge’s history of concussions, teammate Michael Bennett, a defensive tackle, said. “We knew he had a lot of concussions and we were worried about that. But we didn’t see any side effects of it,” Bennett said.
Karageorge, 22, was a Buckeyes wrestler for three years, and the senior defensive tackle joined the football team as a walk-on this season. Although earlier reports said Karageorge played in one game, Ohio State spokesman Jerry Emig corrected that, saying Karageorge had not played in any games.
A woman and her son looking for items in a trash bin Nov. 30 found the body of Karageorge, who disappeared four days earlier after sending his parents a text message. The message said, “I am sorry if I am an embarrassment but these concussions have my head all f—– up.”
Police reports released indicated a man looking for food in the trash bin earlier in the day may have found Karageorge’s body, but he didn’t report it and instead told other people who called police.
After Karageorge went missing, the football team’s physician, Dr. Jim Borchers, said he could not comment on the medical care of student athletes. But, he said, “We are confident in our medical procedures and policies to return athletes to participation following injury or illness.”
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer said he’d been instructed not to talk about medical issues surrounding Karageorge. “I can say this: This is the best group of medical people I’ve ever been around, the way they handle their business and the attention to detail,” Meyer said.
Wrestling coach Tom Ryan told The Columbus Dispatch that Karageorge did not have documented concussions as a wrestler.
Brain injuries seem to increase people’s risk for depression, though most studies on that have been with people who had severe head injuries, said Dr. Tom McAllister, Chairman of Psychiatry at Indiana University, who has studied concussions in college athletes.
If the person had depression or an anxiety disorder in the past, “it often is the case that the concussion seems to exacerbate it,” he said. “These injuries don’t occur in a vacuum. People bring their own past history … into the injury.”
Police found Karageorge’s body within a couple hundred yards of his home and about a half-block from High Street, the main artery of the campus. Karageorge had last been seen at his Columbus apartment, when roommates said he left for a walk.
Several teammates recalled Karageorge as a hard worker at every practice, often staying for extra work, knowing he had little chance of ever playing.
“Every day he came out with the same attitude, no matter what the circumstance was,” said offensive lineman Pat Elfein, adding: “The kid was just a grinder, you know?”
(Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Rusty Miller. AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione reported from Milwaukee