Former All Pro linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last May - two years after finishing an NFL career that lasted two decades - suffered from chronic brain damage, a study by the National Institutes of Health has concluded.
Results of the tests were first reported by ABC News and ESPN in interviews with Seau’s ex-wife and son. Researchers found that Seau had Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The NIH conducted the study at the request of Seau’s family. Seau, who played for the Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots, played for 20 seasons before retiring in 2009.
“I think it's important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE,” Gina Seau said. "It's important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don't want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes.”
She said the family was told that Seau's disease resulted from “a lot of head-to-head collisions over the course of 20 years of playing in the NFL. And that it gradually, you know, developed the deterioration of his brain and his ability to think logically.”
The NFL, which has committed a $30 million research grant to the NIH, said 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.”
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 told ABC. “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.”
Gina and Tyler Seau said he experienced 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.”
Seau is the latest NFL player to have killed himself and then found to have CTE. Former Bears and Giants safety Dave Duerson and former Falcons safety Ray Easterling also committed suicide. Studies of their brains found evidence of CTE.