Luisa Seau, mother of former NFL football player Junior Seau, grieves in the driveway her son’s home, Wednesday, May 2, 2012, in Oceanside, California. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
[Over the weekend, Junior Seau’s family put out oa statement that they were reconsidering donating his brain for study. The decision is incredibly difficult and raises many religious and cultural, in addition to emotional, questions for the family.]
Today brings news that the family of Junior Seau, the former ten-time All-Pro NFL linebacker who took his own life earlier this week, will be donating his brain for study. They want to know if brain injuries sustained during Seau’s twenty-year career may have contributed to his suicide.
“The family was considering this almost from the beginning, but they didn’t want to make any emotional decisions,” Chargers team chaplain Shawn Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday night. “And when they came to a joint decision that absolutely this was the best thing, it was a natural occurrence for the Seau family to go forward.”
The ramifications of their decision cannot be overestimated. While we don’t know why Junior Seau committed suicide, there are stubborn facts around his death that can’t be ignored. We know that Seau was the NFL’s second suicide in the last two weeks. Former Atlanta Falcon Ray Easterling killed himself on April 19.
We know that Seau took his life by shooting himself in the chest and not the head. This was the method of suicide of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson in February 2011. According to Duerson’s much-publicized final note, he said he was putting a bullet in his heart instead of his head so his brain could be sent to the Boston University School of Medicine for study. His family complied, and it was found that Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions. Medical professionals link these injuries to depression, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and as a tragic corollary, suicide. His family is now suing the league in a wrongful death suit.
We also now know that not once in twenty years was Seau ever diagnosed with a concussion on an injury report. This is either a miracle akin to dancing between raindrops, or Seau and team doctors just didn’t report concussions when they occurred. When asked if her husband had ever suffered a concussion, Seau’s ex-wife Gina told ESPN, “Of course he had. He always bounced back and kept on playing. He’s a warrior. That didn’t stop him. I don’t know what football player hasn’t. It’s not ballet. It’s part of the game.”