Hall of Famer Junior Seau took his own life in May of 2012. His family donated his brain to the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C. to see if repeated head trama from years of football was a contributing factor.
The former linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots was found to have suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE,) a neurodegenerative condition that can lead to memory loss, dementia, and depression.
“The type of findings seen in Mr. Seau’s brain have been recently reported in autopsies of individuals with exposure to repetitive head injury, including professional and amateur athletes who played contact sports, individuals with multiple concussions, and veterans exposed to blast injury and other trauma.
The diagnosis wasn’t a surprise to Seau’s widow, Gina. She and her son both felt in his latter years, Seau became emotionally detached and easily annoyed.
“The difference with Junior … from an emotional standpoint (was) how detached he became emotionally. It was so obvious to me because early, many, many years ago, he used to be such a phenomenal communicator. If there was a problem in any relationship, whether it was between us or a relationship with one of his coaches or teammates or somewhere in the business world, he would sit down and talk about it.”
Seau’s son Tyler agreed. “He would sometimes lose his temper. He would get irritable over very small things. And he would take it out on not just myself but also other people that he was close to. And I didn’t understand why.”
Seau never had a history of concussions during his 20-year NFL career. He shot himself in the chest, in a similar manner as former Chicago Bears DB Dave Duerson who left specific instructions to have his brain studied following his death.
With hundreds of former football players suing the NFL, how will the game of football be impacted from these continued findings? Is it time to come to terms with the idea of a new look NFL? Or is this the opportunity for Nike or some other entity to design a more effective helmet?