On May 2, 2012, future first ballot National Football League Hall-of-Famer Junior Seauended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Like former NFL player Dave Duerson, who took his own life in 2011, Seau presumably avoided damaging his head and/or brain so that the tissue could be studied for the benefit of research to determine just how much damage is done to an NFL player’s brain over the course of his career. However, while Duerson left specific instructions in his suicide note for his brain to be donated, Seau did not.
In the wake of Seau’s death, his family was uncertain if they would allow for his brain or a sample of it to be tested. However, it was recently determined that his children and mother agreed to let a portion of his brain tissue be donated to the National Institute of Health. The NIH is not investigating the cause of Seau’s death, according to the Chicago tribune, but instead using his tissue sample to further research regarding generalbrain injuries and strokes.
“The National Institutes of Health is not directly involved in an analysis of former NFL player Junior Seau’s cause of death, but physicians at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke conduct research on traumatic brain injury and have agreed to carry out an analysis of the autopsied tissue.”
“In order to protect Mr. Seau’s children’s right to privacy, NIH will not discuss the status of the tissue or any subsequent findings.”
The NFL is currently embroiled in a growing legal controversy, as more than 2,000 former players – including Hall-of-Fame players across 5 decades of the league’s history – are suing the league under the accusation that officials and teams were aware for many years that prolonged exposure to the game’s violent hits could cause significant brain damage.
Many players have claimed to have suffered more than 100 concussions during their careers, and they believe that league officials could have done something to prevent the health issues that they now deal with on a daily basis. While it is unknown how many concussions Seau actually suffered in his career – compared to how many he was diagnosed with – but his girlfriend told police and health officials after his death that he had claimed to have experienced more than 1,000 concussions in his career.
Prior to his death, Seau had suffered from severe insomnia, for which he used the prescription drug Ambien.
Written By Ashley Burns