NFL's Seau had brain trauma at time of suicide, report finds

January 10, 2013 by Margaret Steele, Healthday Reporter
NFL's seau had brain trauma at time of suicide, report finds
Not the first pro football player with chronic traumatic encephalopathy to kill himself, neurologist notes.

(HealthDay)—When former National Football League star linebacker Junior Seau killed himself last year, he had a catastrophic brain disorder probably brought on by repeated hits to the head, the U.S. National Institutes of Health has concluded.

The NIH scientists who studied Seau's determined that he had (CTE). They told the Associated Press on Thursday that the they saw were similar to those found in of people "with exposure to repetitive ."

The disorder—characterized by impulsivity, depression and —is only diagnosed after death.

Seau, 43, who played pro football for 20 seasons before his retirement in 2009, shot himself in the chest last May. His family donated his brain for research.

Some experts suspect—but can't prove—that CTE led to Seau's suicide.

"Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is the thing we have typically seen in a lot of the athletes," said Dr. Howard Derman, director at the Methodist Concussion Center in Houston.

"Rather than say 'this caused this,' I think the observation is that there have been multiple [pro football] now who have committed suicide: Dave Duerson, Andre Waters, John Grimsley—although Grimsley was just reported as a gun accident," Derman said.

Some argue that these players became depressed once they were out of the limelight or because of marital or financial difficulties, but Derman thinks the evidence goes beyond that.

"Yes, all that may be going on ... but it still remains that the majority of these players who have committed suicide do have changes of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. We feel that that is also playing a role in their mental state."

But, Derman cautioned, "I can't say that chronic traumatic encephalopathy causes players to commit suicide."

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy was first noticed in boxers who suffered blows to the head over many years. In recent years, concerns about CTE have led high school and college programs to restrict hits to the head, and the prohibits helmet-to-helmet hits.

About 4,000 former NFL players filed a class-action lawsuit last year claiming the league failed to protect players from traumatic brain injuries or warn them about the dangers of concussions.

The NFL has said that it never intentionally hid the dangers of concussion from players, and that it is now doing everything it can to protect players against concussions. The league has given a $30 million research grant to the National Institutes of Health for that purpose.

"I was not surprised after learning a little about CTE that he had it," Seau's son, Tyler, 23, told the AP. "He did play so many years at that level. I was more just kind of angry [that] I didn't do something more and have the awareness to help him more, and now it is too late."

Seau's son said the family was unaware of the side effects associated with head injuries. "We didn't know his behavior was from head trauma," he said.

Seau's ex-wife, Gina Seau, told ABC News that although her ex-husband was never formally diagnosed with a , he often complained of symptoms that are related to one. Those symptoms included mood swings, irrational behavior, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.

Dr. Russell Lonser, who led the study on Seau's brain, told the AP that the brain was independently evaluated in a "blind" fashion, meaning it was one of three unidentified brains. "We had the opportunity to get multiple experts involved in a way [that] they wouldn't be able to directly identify his tissue even if they knew he was one of the individuals studied," Lonser said.

Last month, Boston University School of Medicine researchers reported in the journal Brain that people with CTE experience four specific phases, beginning with memory disruption and thinking problems and ending with aggression.

The Boston researchers said the condition had been diagnosed in 34 former professional players and nine former college .

Seau, who was divorced, played with New England, San Diego and Miami during his NFL career.

Explore further: Pro-bowler suicide raises questions of early concussion detection

More information: For more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, see the American Academy of Neurology.

Related Stories

Pro-bowler suicide raises questions of early concussion detection

May 7, 2012
Before beginning his 20-year career playing football in the NFL, Junior Seau starred at the University of Southern California and in high school. According to Chris Hummel, a certified athletic trainer and clinical associate ...

Brain autopsies of four former football players reveal not all get chronic traumatic encephalopathy

July 26, 2011
Preliminary results from the first four brains donated to the Canadian Sports Concussion Project at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, TorontoWesternHospital, reveal that two of the four former Canadian Football League (CFL) ...

NFL players may be at higher risk of death from Alzheimer's and ALS

September 5, 2012
New research shows that professional football players may be at a higher risk of death from diseases that damage the cells in the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), compared to ...

Recommended for you

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.