It was not surprising to learn that Junior Seau had chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Seau took his own life in May 2012 and shocked a nation already reeling over other similar sports deaths. He was a former National Football League (NFL) linebacker, who took punishing blows to the head during game play. It is not unusual for athletes who participate in contact sports to end up with head trauma.
What is discouraging is that so many good athletes are taking their own lives as a result of playing a sport they love. Were they playing without enough knowledge to make an informed decision about the risks? You may recall various lawsuits launched by current and former NFL players against the League for withholding information that they could suffer brain damage, as a result of sustaining numerous concussions on the playing field. Coaches and the League had apparently known for years of the risks involved, but nothing was done about it.
Samples of Seau’s brain tissue showed he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy; a progressive disease that may only be diagnosed after death. He was a 12-time Pro Bowl champion, who played in 20 NFL seasons. Seau was only 43 when he shot himself in the chest. His frequent head-on-head collisions over the years with other teammates had caused his brain to deteriorate, drastically affecting his ability to think in a logical manner.
Sadly, many suggest that Seau knew that his injuries had caused problems with his brain. People have speculated that Seau shot himself in the chest to preserve his brain for future research.
The brain damage found in Seau’s tissue samples was similar to that found in the brains of Andre Waters, Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling. Waters was a defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles; Duerson, a defensive back for the Chicago Bears and Easterling, a safety for the Atlanta Falcons. This is a serious issue, and millions have been committed for more research to address the long-term health and safety of players who participate in contact sports.
While the news of more research to come thanks to an infusion of $100 million from the NFL Players Association is welcome, one wonders why, if many in the NFL and other sports venues already knew about the issue, that no one did anything. Has the world come to the point where playing a dangerous game and winning, at any expense, is more important than the players? Research could have been started a long time ago. Instead, scientists are playing catch up while players still hit the field and hope for the best.
Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke LLP. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.