On May 2, 2012, Junior Seau shocked his family, friends and the world when he sadly took his own life, with a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the chest.
Junior Seau, a 1st round pick of the San Diego Chargers in 1990 was a 12-time Pro Bowl player who played 20 years for the Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots upon retiring from the NFL in 2009.
After his death, at the request of his family, they asked that his brain be studied for any abnormalities.
On Thursday, The NIH (National Institute of Health) released its studies to the Associated Press that when Seau took his own life, he suffered from a consistent amount of CTE, which stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
Based in Bethesda, Maryland, the NIH conducted a study in where they examined three different brains, none of which were identified, with one of them being Seau’s. The results on Seau’s brain were similar to the other two unidentified brains “with exposure to repetitive head injuries”.
“The brain was independently evaluated by multiple experts, in a blind fashion,” said Dr. Russell Lonser, who oversaw the study. “We had the opportunity to get multiple experts involved in a way they wouldn’t be able to directly identify his tissue even if they knew he was one of the individuals studied.”
Sadly, the findings in Seau’s brain does not come as a shock to many.
“I was not surprised after learning a little about CTE that he had it,” Seau’s 23-year-old son Tyler said. “He did play so many years at that level. 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”
CTE is a progressive degenerative disease, which is in most cases diagnosed in post-mortem, finds in individuals, mostly athletes involved in contact sports who have suffered multiple concussions and other various head injuries.
Symptoms of CTE include short term memory loss, insomnia, depression, mood swings and irrational thought to name a few.
“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.” said Tyler Seau “We didn’t know his behavior was from head trauma.”
The hard part to digest about finding CTE in post-mortem, meaning after you die is exactly that. CTE can only be found once the brain is taken out of the body and separated to be studied. The biggest leap in treating this disease would be to find a way to identify it while the individual is alive.
The NFL Players Association released a statement today calling the report that Seau had CTE tragic and that more needs to be done to improve player care and safety. Their statement is below;
“Junior Seau was a leader on and off the field and the player community continues to mourn his loss. The report today about Junior having chronic traumatic encephalopathy is tragic. We know that research and partnerships will be an important factor in improving player care and safety, which is why we set aside $100M of player funds for medical research during the term of this collective bargaining agreement.
We also know that accountability and credibility are equally important measures in the overall commitment to player safety. The only way we can improve the safety of players, restore the confidence of our fans and secure the future of our game is to insist on the same quality of medical care, informed consent and ethical standards that we expect for ourselves and for our family members. This is why the players have asked for things like independent sideline concussion experts, the certification and credentialing of all professional football medical staff and a fairer workers compensation system in professional football.
Given their keen interest in Health and Safety issues in football, we call on Congressman Cummings, Congressman Issa and the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to review this issue as well.
Our players deserve the best care, and we will fight to hold the NFL and the Clubs accountable for providing it.”
NFL teams have contributed $30 million in grant research to the NIH.
The NFL currently faces lawsuits by its former players who claim that the league withheld medical information in relation to head and brain injuries, including the effects of concussions and repeated hits to the head and how it will affect the future of their health.
Junior Seau now becomes the 34th NFL player whose brain was found to have CTE, along with nine former college players, according to a report from Boston University. Boston University has become the center for the disease, known to many as the “NFL Brain Bank”.
The NFL released a statement about the findings in Junior Seau’s brain.
“We appreciate the Seau family’s cooperation with the National Institutes of Health; The finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE. The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels.”
Seau’s findings come a season after which we’ve seen Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher openly stating he would lie about having a concussion to continue playing, while seeing San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith lose his starting job because of a concussion along with Greg McElroy of the New York Jets after initially lying about having one.
That suggests that the closing of the gap between changing the culture of the NFL and advancing the study of brain injuries and awareness are still a long ways away.
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