When Junior Seau committed suicide last year, amid the reactions of shock and despair, there were many cautioning for patience before jumping to conclusions. Even if Seau’s pattern of behavior prior to his suicide suggested that he was suffering from the long-term effects from a lifetime of playing football, we didn’t know for sure.
Now we know for sure and we know the suspicions of many are confirmed. Not that it wasn’t right to withhold judgment until now.
Three independent neuropathologists from outside the NIH were given unidentified tissue from three different brains; one belonged to Seau, another to a person who had suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, and a third from a person with no history of traumatic brain injury or neurodegenerative disease.
Dr. Lonser said the three experts independently arrived at the same conclusion as two other government researchers: that Seau’s brain showed definitive signs of CTE. Those signs included the presence of an abnormal protein called “tau” that forms neurofibrillary tangles, effectively strangling brain cells.
A statement released by the NIH said the tangles were found “within multiple regions of Mr. Seau’s brain.” In addition, the statement said, a small region of the left frontal lobe showed “evidence of scarring that is consistent with a small, old traumatic brain injury.”
The finding itself won’t have clear ramifications on the future of the sport and the lawsuit brought by former players against the league, but is the most high-profile case yet of a deceased player whose CTE was sustained as a result of playing football. That’s a problem for a lot of people.