The U.S. National Institutes of Health has concluded that former National Football League star Junior Seau was suffering from a serious brain injury at the time of his suicide. That condition, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), has been found in a number of other former professional football players who have died prematurely from dementia, suicide or other complications.
Seau’s brain tissue bore characteristics similar to those already known to have suffered the disease. While some of the symptoms of CTE may be evident during life — the most common tend to be depression and erratic behavior — the condition can only be diagnosed after death.
Seau enjoyed a 20-year professional career before retiring in 2009. Last year, he died from a self-inflicted gun wound.
While it’s widely believed that CTE caused Seau’s suicide, there is no way to prove that that was the case. But many other former NFL players have added their names to a massive lawsuit filed in Philadelphia district court alleging that the NFL failed to protect them from known the hazards of concussions and other brain injuries.
Many of those players are now suffering from mental disorders of their own, which they believe are the result of injuries sustained during their playing days.
So far, CTE has been diagnosed in 34 former professional football players and nine former college football players. As deaths mount, it’s possible that those numbers will increase and build a much stronger body of evidence suggesting the dangerous implications of CTE among athletes and other individuals.
Source: HealthDay, “NFL’s Seau Had Brain Trauma at Time of Suicide, Report Finds,” Margaret Steele, Jan. 10, 2013