06/15/11 It was to be the first day of school on August 18, 2009 for Triton freshman Jacob Berger. Sadly however, his family, friends, team mates, classmates and the entire Bourbon community learned that day that Jacob had died.
The fourteen-year-old had been at football practice the night before and had received a head injury from a head to head impact, but it was discovered later that Jacob’s death was not solely related to football. Jacob’s father, Tim Berger, said the cause of his death was due to a Dual Berry aneurism stemming from a congenital condition. Berger said, “It was not a football injury, although the head injury could have been the trigger that set things in motion.”
Jacob’s family followed the procedures for a concussion watch that night and an aunt with medical training had also checked Jacob for signs of a concussion. According to Tim Berger, this was not the first time that Jacob had had a concussion.
Now through the generosity of his parents, samples of Jacob’s brain tissue have been donated to the The Brain Injury Research Institute. Marshall County Coroner, William Cleavenger, initially investigated Jacob’s sudden death and than an autopsy was preformed in Ft. Wayne by a forensic pathologist. The tissue being donated was from that autopsy.
According to Cleavenger, earlier this year he received a letter from the University of West Virginia of Medicine asking Indiana coroners to report any case that might have been related either directly or indirectly to head injury. Cleavenger said, “Jacob’s case came to mind immediately.” At this point, Jacob’s case has been accepted into the national study. Later this month in Indianapolis, Dr. Jennifer Hammers a Fellow of the Institute, will present Jacob’s case to the Indiana Coroner’s Association annual meeting. Cleavenger will also be presenting the case at the meeting.
Molly Berger, Jacob’s mother said the last year-and-a half has not been easy. However, she knows that Jacob would have wanted them to donate to the Institute. The Berger’s said, “If it can help just one person, it will be worth it.” “Jacob would have wanted it, no question.” they said.
Tim and Molly said Jacob loved all kinds of sports. Starting in fifth grade, Jacob was the ball boy for teams and was often at games with his older brother Robbie. Jacob participated in motocross, wrestling, baseball and football. Tim said, “Motocross and football were his true passion.” “He was doing exactly what he wanted to do.” Tim said.
Jacob’s younger sister, Megan, who is now 13, is also in a number of sports.
A memorial rock weighing some 12-13 tons or more has been placed at the school in a strategic place where football players will pass by on their way to the field. At some point, a plague will be attached to the rock to honor the memory of Jacob.
Molly continues to share her gratitude for the caring community in which they live. She said, “We scheduled the viewing for Jacob at the Bourbon Bible Church from 2:00-9:00 P. M..; but there were lines of people around the inside and outside of the church and the viewing lasted until midnight.”
Tim said, “We want to let people know that football is a contact sport, but not a deadly sport.” He said one of his first calls upon learning of Jacob’s passing was to his coach Rodney Younice and he then made a trip into the school to talk with Jacob’s close friend who had been involved in the head to head impact during practice. He said, “I wanted him to know it was not his fault.”
Cleavenger said, “The Berger’s hope that the samples from Jacob will further the study of the effects of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in athletes involved in contact sports, active and veteran military personnel, or persons with recent or past mild traumatic brain injury.”
Carol Anders Correspondent