Share This Page
NFL

NFL player Junior Seau had brain disease CTE

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 9:42 a.m.

Junior Seau, one of the NFL's best and fiercest players for nearly two decades, had a degenerative brain disease when he committed suicide last May, the National Institutes of Health told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Results of an NIH study of Seau's brain revealed abnormalities consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

“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.”

The NIH, based in Bethesda, Md., conducted a study of three unidentified brains, one of which was Seau's. It said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people “with exposure to repetitive head injuries.”

Seau's family requested the analysis of his brain.

Seau was a star linebacker for 20 NFL seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound. He joins a list of several dozen football players who had CTE. Boston University's center for study of the disease reported last month that 34 former pro players and nine who played only college football suffered from CTE.

“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.

“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. We didn't know his behavior was from head trauma.”

That behavior, according to Tyler Seau and Junior's ex-wife, Gina, included wild mood swings, irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.

“He emotionally detached himself and would kind of ‘go away' for a little bit,” Tyler Seau said. “And then the depression and things like that. It started to progressively get worse.”

He hid it well in public, they said. But not when he was with family or close friends.

The NFL faces lawsuits by thousands of former players who say the league withheld information on the harmful effects concussions can have on their health.

“We appreciate the Seau family's cooperation with the National Institutes of Health,” the league said in an email statement to The AP. “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.”

NFL teams have given a $30 million research grant to the NIH. Seau is not the first former NFL player who killed himself, then was found to have CTE. Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling are others.

“It was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth,” Gina Seau said, “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. There's such strong evidence correlating head trauma and collisions and CTE.”

Tyler Seau played football through high school and for two years in college. He said he has no symptoms of any brain trauma.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.