Junior Seau, an NFL legend who spent 20 years an a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest back in May. Immediately, the comparisons to former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in 2011 by shooting himself in the chest and left a suicide note asking that his brain be studied, started to come.
Now, seven months after Seau's death, reports have surfaced that the linebacker and Duerson were also connected in another way - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is a brain damage disease that is caused by repeated blows to the head, and can lead to depression and dementia. The only way to diagnose CTE is through a study of the affected brain after death.
CTE has been found in the brains of an additional 31 former NFL players. While the disease was known to exist in boxers, it was only first discovered in NFL players' brains in 2005. Thousands of former NFL players are currently engaged in lawsuits against the league saying that the NFL hid the effects of repeated head injuries, even after the 2005 discovery of CTE. The Seau family is not currently involved in any of the litigation, but has not ruled it out.
The NFL released the following statement after Seau's ex-wife Gina, and his eldest son Tyler, released the results of the study on Seau's brain during an interview with ABC News and ESPN:
"We appreciate the Seau family's cooperation with the National Institutes of Health. The finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE. The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels. The NFL clubs have already committed a $30 million research grant to the NIH, and we look forward to making decisions soon with the NFL Players Association on the investment of $100 million for medical research that is committed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We have work to do, and we're doing it."