Former NFL linebacker Junior Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease caused by many hits to the head, a team of independent researchers who analyzed his brain tissue reported to ABC News. In the wake of Seau’s death and numerous brain damage diagnoses of former players, thousands of NFL concussion lawsuits have drawn attention to a very serious problem.
Seau, 43, a defensive icon and all-star player in the 1990s, shot himself in the chest at his California home in 2012. Seau's family donated his brain to a team of neuroscientists at the National Institutes for Health currently researching traumatic brain injury in football players. The researchers did not know they were studying Seau’s brain until after they made conclusions about his condition.
“What was found in Junior Seau's brain was cellular changes consistent with CTE,” said Dr. Russell Lonser, Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University and leader of the study of Seau's brain at NIH.
About 4,000 retired players have joined a class-action lawsuit against the NFL for the league’s failure to adequately protect their players from brain trauma. Seau, according to his ex-wife Gina, never received a concussion diagnosis, but he often complained of concussion symptoms after practices and games throughout 20 seasons in the NFL. More than 30 NFL players were recently diagnosed with CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death.
Gina Seau explained her ex-husband had difficulty sleeping and became emotionally detached from his family. “A lot of things, towards the end of his life, patterns that we saw and things that worried us, it makes sense now,” she said of the diagnosis.