Independent researchers have concluded that San Diego Charger Junior Seau was suffering from brain damage at the time of his suicide last year. The researches, unaware it was Seau’s brain being studied, believe he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease typically caused by multiple hits to the head.
Over 30 former NFL players have been diagnosed recently with CTE, a condition once known as “punch drunk” because it affected boxers who had taken multiple blows to the head. The NFL is facing lawsuits from 4,000 retired players over its failure to prevent these type of brain injuries in players. The NFL denies the claims, saying it did not know about the dangers of concussions from players and is doing everything it can now to protect them.
Gina Seau, Seau’s ex-wife, said she and her ex-husband expected physical injuries from playing professional football but never thought “you’re putting your brain and your mental health at a greater risk.” Seau was never formally diagnosed with a concussion but routinely complained of symptoms associated with concussions after receiving hits to the head during games and in practices in 20 seasons in the NFL.
“What was found in Junior Seau’s brain was cellular changes consistent with CTE,” said Dr. Russell Lonser, chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University, who led the study of Seau’s brain while he was at NIH.
Patients with CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, display symptoms “such as impulsivity, forgetfulness, depression, [and] sometimes suicidal ideation,” Lonser said.
Seau shot himself in the chest at his home in Oceanside, California in May 2012, leaving behind four children.