When news broke of the recently confirmed suicide of Tiaina Baul Seau Jr, better known as Junior Seau, the whole nation felt the tragedy. As the initial shock wore off, a thought that quickly entered many minds was the question of whether or not Seau’s NFL career was partially to blame.
As the 4th former NFL pro to commit suicide in the last two years, there is undoubtedly reason for concern. Seau’s suicide eerily reminded fans of former defensive back Dave Duerson’s suicide in February of last year. Both men were found with self-inflicted bullet wounds in the chest, leading many to believe that Seau wanted his brain donated to the NFL’s ‘brain bank’ at Boston University as Duerson’s had been.
Authorities have not yet released details of Seau’s suicide note, however, Duerson’s text message final note to his family specifically expressed his desire for his brain to be donated for research.
Later in May of last year, Boston University researchers announced that Duerson’s brain showed that he did appear to have CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
CTE, a major topic of concern around the Seau story currently, is a head-trauma-induced, degenerative disease that has also been found in 20 other deceased former pros. Although Seau did not reportedly have a serious history of concussions his ex wife Gina reportedly responded, “Of course he had [concussions]”. (NPR)
The effects characterized by CTE are said to include symptoms of dementia and depression. It’s said to begin and worsen with less than concussive head trauma and currently the disease can only be diagnosed post-mortem (BU.edu).
SI reporter and long-time friend of Seau, Jim Trotter quoted him this week from a conversation they had in March regarding some public disapproval of possible game changes resulting from Roger Goodell’s desire for more player safety. It was clear that Seau was behind the commissioner’s goals when he said,
“Those who are saying the game is changing for the worse, well, they don’t have a father who can’t remember his name because of the game. I’m pretty sure if everybody had to wake with their dad not knowing his name, not knowing his kids’ name, not being able to function at a normal rate after football, they would understand that the game needs to change.” (washingtonpost.com)
Seau aired his concerns to an NFL player’s union official about one day developing CTE himself; only further reinforcing the weight of Seau’s awareness of his situation and the tragic implications it held.