WIKIMEDIA, JJ HALLJunior Seau’s brain showed abnormalities consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease associated with repetitive head injuries, when the linebacker committed suicide last May, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Seau, who played for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots during his 20-season NFL career, is the third player to have his suicide linked to brain trauma.
“It was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth,” Gina Seau, Junior’s ex-wife, told CBS News, “and now that it has been conclusively determined from every expert that he had obviously had it, CTE, we just hope it is taken more seriously. You can't deny it exists, and it is hard to deny there is a link between head trauma and CTE.”
CTE is usually found in individuals who have suffered repeated concussions or other head injuries, and is associated with dementia, memory loss, aggression, confusion, and depression, which can surface months to decades after the injuries occurred. Doctors have diagnosed dozens of football players with the disease.
“I was not surprised after learning a little about CTE that he had it,” Seau's 23-year-old son, Tyler, told CBS News. “I was more just kind of angry I didn't do something more and have the awareness to help him more, and now it is too late. I don't think any of us were aware of the side effects that could be going on with head trauma until he passed away.” Both Tyler and Gina recalled that Seau’s behavior around the time of his death included mood swings, depression, forgetfulness, and insomnia.
Former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson and former Atlanta Falcon Ray Easterling also committed suicide, in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and both were suspected of having CTE-related dementia.
The NFL faces lawsuits from thousands of players who say they should have done more to inform them of the dangers of repeated concussions, and the league has given $30 million to the NIH to study CTE.