Junior Seau, one of the greatest players in NFL history, had brain damage from multiple blows to the head when he committed suicide.
The National Institutes of Health said the San Diego Chargers linebacker had the same type of chronic brain damage that has been found in dozens of deceased former players, ESPN reported. The NIH consulted five brain specialists after Seau’s brain was examined.
Although the NFL has taken steps to curb excessive force, and helmet-to-helmet practice continues. Some TV announcers complain when penalties are called, because hard hits are part of the entertainment. Sort of like two gladiators battling. Seau was never known for late hits or blows to the head.
ESPN said Seau's ex-wife, Gina, and his eldest son, Tyler, 23, said they were told last week that Seau's brain had tested positive for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia, memory loss and depression.
"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."
Doctors told her 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 family has not decided whether to join a lawsuit by thousands of ex-NFL players saying the league withheld information from them on the harmful effects of repeated blows to the head.
He died May 2. Six players, or former players, have committed suicide in the past two years, according to the New York Daily News.
Seau also played for the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.
Knowledge of head injuries has grown dramatically in recent years, largely because of wounds suffered by soldiers who fall victim to improvised explosive devices.
Time after time victims of such wounds have wanted to stay in the battle to be with their comrades. NFL players are under the pressure of helping their teams and earning their big pay checks.
Last week’s playoff game between the Washington Redskins showed both how a coach would risk an injured player and how the opposition directly targeted star quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Seattle Sawhawks were called for one late hit on Griffin after he had thrown a touchdown pass. Bounties on opposing quarterbacks, including Peyton ManningPeyton Manning and Bret Favre helped the New Orleans Saints win a Super BowlSuper Bowl, temporarily ended Manning’s career and cut Favre’s short.
Shanahan played Griffin although he had a knee injury and was limping at times. Griffin was only pulled from the game with six minutes left when he fell on the ground and couldn’t get up trying to pick up a snap from the center that went astray. The New York Times reported Griffin had to have two knee ligaments surgically repaired Wednesday as of injuries suffered in the Seahwaks game.
The NFL, in a statement to USA TODAY Sports, said: "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.
"The NFL clubs have already committed a $30 million research grant to the NIH, and we look forward to making decisions soon with the NFL Players Association on the investment of $100 million for medical research that is committed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We have work to do, and we're doing it."