SAN DIEGO (CBS) — NFL star linebacker Junior Seau’s brain will be donated by his family for research into football-related brain injuries.
Seau, a standout linebacker for the USC Trojans before playing 13 seasons for the San Diego Chargers, was found dead in his Oceanside home of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest Wednesday.
An autopsy confirmed the suicide, and the family is not speculating as to whether previous football-related injuries were a factor in Seau’s death, CBSSports.com reported.
A number of research organizations have already reached out to the Seau family to request the donation, including the Brain Injury Research Institute, according to CBSSports.com.
Seau’s ex-wife reportedly said that Seau sustained concussions during his 20-year NFL career, which included stints for the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. However, Seau was never heard complaining about dizziness or headaches.
A former Chargers teammate of Seau’s, Ronney Jenkins, speculated that football-related head injuries could have contributed to his friend’s death. Jenkins told CBS2/KCAL9’s Melissa McCarty, “I don’t want to sound like a cliche, but there was something different about [Seau]. And there’s only a few people I’ve looked up to and he was one of them.”
Dr. Neil Martin, chief of Neurology at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, cites recent research that links former athletes to a serious medical condition called CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
“It’s a chronic degeneration of the brain like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s but occurs much younger and seems to be associated with repetitive injuries to the head. In the context of contact sports,” Dr. Martin said.
Confirmation of CTE can only be diagnosed after the patient has died. Former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson — who also committed suicide — requested he be tested for it after his death.