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Did Concussions Kill Junior Seau?

Submitted by on May 3, 2012 – 10:38 am2 Comments

The death of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau has rocked the foundation of the NFL. With all signs pointing to a suicide, the questions now is “Why?”

What exactly led the star linebacker to take his own life has baffled everyone. But it also makes us question concussions and the mental health of professional football players once they decide to hang up the cleats. Strangely enough, Seau is the eighth member of the 1994 Super Bowl champion San Diego Chargers to pass away before the age of 45 (Lew Bush, Shawn Lee, David Griggs, Rodney Culver, Doug Miller, Curtis Whitley and Chris Mims were the others). Although their deaths weren’t by suicide, it is certainly alarming. Former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson also took his own life in February of 2011.

Does the fact that Seau played for 20 years and had his fair share of concussions have anything to do with his death? It’s hard to say. Perhaps it was the fact that Seau was trying to deal with his life after the NFL. After 20 years, it’s hard to find normalcy in your life when you are used to living behind a face mask and lighting up opposing players. But, then again, there is a possibility that concussions played a role in shaping his mental state as the years went on.

Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes spoke to USA Today regarding this matter.

“We don’t have any strong evidence (yet about Seau), and we know that people commit suicide for other reasons. … But to me it’s also concerning due to the fact that he had such a long playing history,” said Bailes.

“The emerging research is perhaps pointing to the amount of exposure to repetitive head contacts being like a dose response. … The more you’re exposed to sun light; you get a higher chance of skin cancer. … The more CAT Scans you have; you are exposed to radiation and perhaps side effects.”

Seau played football for 30 years — which is more than half of his life. Surely there are some concerns about how his brain reacted after multiple shots to the head. Bailes and neuropathologist Bennet Omalu have identified brain damage in the autopsied brains of former NFL players Mike Webster, Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk, Andre Waters, and Chris Henry. Concussion lawsuits have been filed by 1600 former players as concerns about their mental health continue.

No, not every NFL player will commit suicide, but there obviously needs to be some extensive research done in order to figure out what went wrong with Junior Seau and prevent this from happening again if possible.

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