UNI rugby coach's secret struggle with CTE - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UNI rugby coach's secret struggle with CTE

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A picture. A smile. A face.

It doesn't always tell the story of what was really going on. 

UNI rugby coach Steve Murra, known for his energy and humor, took his own life last year on February 20th.

But now something we rarely hear about suicide: an answer.

"Steve didn't do this; CTE did," says wife Jennifer Murra.

Rugby had been a part of Steve's life for years.

He played on the Iowa Falls Rugby Club, and then later started the rugby team at UNI.

He eventually lead the rugby team to the National Championships twice. 

He was known for making people laugh and always having a good time.

"He was what I called a Type-B person; super calm, relaxed, and nothing got him worked up," Jennifer says.

But then she noticed things starting to change.

"It was a complete flip flop of a person. He went from never being angry to being angry all the time," she says.

After his death, Steve's brain was sent to Boston University. They confirmed he had CTE, a brain disease found in athletes with a history of repetitive head trauma.

"His frontal lobe was shrinking. He was basically turning more and more animal-like," Jennifer says.

CTE after years of playing Rugby. 

KWWL asked the current UNI rugby coach, Megan Flann, how rugby could lead to CTE. 

She says, "In rugby, we don't wear any helmets or pads. That expose can really play a big role in getting CTE."

Jennifer says, "So in rugby, you hit your head on the ground, you hit your head on other people's knees, and other people's heads constantly. It's the constant blows to the head. 

Now the team and family are coming together, encouraging others to donate their brains. 

They also want others to realize that CTE is not just associated with football. 

If you would like to learn more about Steve's story or how to one day donate your brain, click on this link: https://concussionfoundation.org/story/my-legacy-jennifer-steve-murra-rugby

KWWL asked UNI about Steve Murra and the rugby team. Below is their statement:

Coach Murra volunteered as the Coach of the Women's Rugby club at UNI for more than 20 years and was well recognized in the national Rugby community.  His devotion and longevity to the sport and the Women who played for him is unmatched among collegiate rugby programs.   

He can be credited for not only recruiting women to UNI but also helping in the retention efforts of those that were considering transfer or withdrawing from school. 

This is amazing for someone who was not a UNI employee.  In addition to exposing hundreds of women to a sport they did not know before attending UNI, Coach Murra worked tirelessly to provide additional opportunities to the UNI players on regional and national elite squads representing the United States in international competition.  

Coach Murra is dearly missed by many inside and outside the Rugby community and will always noted in the history of UNI Recreation Services.  

Like any sport, the potential of injury does exist.  The sport is regulated by USA Rugby which works to ensure the safety of play through consistent review of rules.  At UNI, our Rugby clubs are supported by an Athletic Training services and have coaches teaching proper technique.  

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