Junior Seau's suicide last May shocked the sports world. In addition to being one of the greatest NFL linebackers of all time, Seau appeared to be a friendly, happy person. He was a fan and media favorite whose NFL career spanned 20 years.
Seau's family says his private behavior was much different than the behavior the public saw. According to Seau's son, this behavior included wild mood swings, irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia, and depression. These symptoms, which are common among people with traumatic brain injury, were becoming progressively worse. After Seau died, his family requested an analysis of his brain.
The National Institute for Health (NIH), based in Bethesda, Md., conducted a study of three unidentified brains, one of which was Seau's. It said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people ''with exposure to repetitive head injuries.''
The brain was independently evaluated by multiple experts, in a blind fashion,'' said Dr. Russell Lonser, who oversaw the study. ''We had the opportunity to get multiple experts involved in a way they wouldn't be able to directly identify his tissue even if they knew he was one of the individuals studied.
Results of the NIH study of Seau's brain revealed abnormalities consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 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. Other former NFL players with CTE who were driven to suicide because of the terrible symptoms include: Andre Watters of the Eagles, Dave Duerson of the Bears, Mike Webster of the Steelers, and Ray Easterling of the Falcons. Watters shot himself in the chest. His family believed he intended for his brain to be preserved and studied. Before shooting himself in the chest, Duerson left a note directing that his brain be studied for signs of trauma.
One high profile athlete and current TV star, Terry Bradshaw, courageously shares his struggles with the effects of repetitive concussions. Today, he blogged about the neurorehabilitative training he does to try to coutneract the progressively worsening problems he has with his brain. He suffers from worsening hand/eye coordination, difficulty thinking, short-term memory problems, problems with concentration, and difficulty learning new material. I've watched Mr. Bradshaw on NFL pre-game shows for a long time, and I can see how he sometimes struggles to find words or remember what he intended to say. It is a credit to his co-hosts that they have such compassion for him. You can see in Howie Long's eyes how heartbreaking it is to watch Mr. Bradshaw struggle. It is an even greater credit to Mr. Bradshaw that he has the courage to share his struggles with the public.