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Dave Mirra’s Tragic Suicide Raises Concerns Over Impact of Concussions

Action sports legend Dave Mirra was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound last night in Greenville, North Carolina. photo.

Yesterday evening, according to North Carolina news station WITM, BMX legend Dave Mirra was found dead in his truck in his home of Greenville, North Carolina, a town he himself made a hub of BMX culture, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The suicide, at age 41, ended at a young age the influence of an athlete who was one of the few not only to transcend his individual sport with his success and influence, but to transcend action sports as a whole, inspiring generations of Americans and young people around the world through his record-setting feats, 24 X Games medal-winning performances, his video games, and his TV appearances, all the while retaining a humble, approachable attitude that was remembered in countless posts from everyday people to Tony Hawk over social media last night.

Mirra was the first rider to land a double backflip in competition back in 2000, and after winning no less than 24 X Games medals – a feat matched only by fellow legend Bob Burnquist – kept his competitive edge well into his 30's, taking second place overall in the Dew Tour as lately as 2009. His influence extended far beyond competition, though, as he brought countless kids to the sport of BMX through his coaching, his line of Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX video games, his appearance as host of MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenge, and through his own bike company, Mirra Co. Not to get out of athletics completely in the golden years of his career, Mirra instead channeled his personal drive towards new sports like Ironman competitions, rally car racing, and boxing.

Among the many emotional remembrances of Mirra's life and career were sprinkled speculations over the impact of CTE on Mirra's apparent suicide. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative disease afflicting those who've suffered repeated brain trauma, often concussions that show no immediate affects. The disease has been a hot topic in the NFL, where careers filled with concussions have caused debilitating affects for retired athletes, sometimes even leading to suicidal behavior. Just this past spring, a young football player, 25-year-old Adrian Robinson, Jr. committed suicide, and was found posthumously to have been suffering from CTE.

Mirra himself was hit by a drunk driver in 1992, performed an incredible recovery from what was assumed to be a career-ending injury, and then spent much of the next two decades suffering the brutal slams of a professional action sports career, following that with bouts in the boxing world, a sport itself notorious for cases of CTE, with boxers from Joe Louis to "Sugar" Ray Robinson suffering from early-onset Alzheimers and severe mental degradation. The amount of brain trauma Mirra no doubt suffered throughout his life will be the topic of much speculation following in the wake of his tragic death, and no doubt will open the doors for a serious conversation about the disease in action sports – a mum topic in the current day.

The Mirra family, who is no doubt suffering greatly at this hour. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Photo via Dave Mirra Instagram.

Mirra leaves an incredible legacy behind, and is survived by his wife, Lauren Blackwell Mirra, and two children. Our deep condolences are with the Mirra family and their friends at this hour. Rest in peace, Dave – more will miss you than can be counted. 

About The Author

stash member Ryan Dunfee

Former Managing Editor at Teton Gravity Research, current Senior Contributor, current professional hippy at the Sierra Club, and avid weekend recreationalist.