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Junior Seau’s Family Sues NFL Over Concussion-Related Disease

January 23rd, 2013

In May 2012, we told you about the apparent suicide death of football star Junior Seau. He killed himself with a shot to the chest, presumably to preserve his brain so that experts could determine whether he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive form of brain damage caused by multiple concussions. (To read the full blog about his death, click here:  Another NFL Concussion Tragedy)

On January 10, 2013, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a study that confirmed that Seau’s brain did, indeed, have abnormalities consistent with CTE. According to an article on msn.foxsports.com:

”I was not surprised after learning a little about CTE that he had it,” Seau’s 23-year-old son Tyler said. ”He did play so many years at that level. I was more just kind of angry I didn’t do something more and have the awareness to help him more, and now it is too late.

”I don’t think any of us were aware of the side effects that could be going on with head trauma until he passed away. We didn’t know his behavior was from head trauma.”

That behavior, according to Tyler Seau and Junior’s ex-wife Gina, included wild mood swings, irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.

Today, the Associated Press reports that Seau’s family has sued the NFL, making him the latest of about 3,800 players to have filed to get compensation for brain injuries incurred during their careers. It’s a serious matter, and not one that can easily be tossed aside by asking “what did they expect from playing a violent game?” The issue is one of knowledge: It is alleged that the NFL knew the risks to players’ brains but failed to inform them. If the NFL knew about the risk but failed to warn players–especially considering that CTE usually become evident years after a player retires–the NFL was negligent.

According to the Associated Press article, Seau’s family wrote:

“We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”

It’s a good message. Concussions are definitely not a “minor” injury. It’s sad that it is taking the death of Junior Seau and the suffering of thousands of other football players to make that point clear for the rest of us.

What’s even sadder is the timing of Seau’s suicide. This week, researchers announced that it may be possible to diagnose CTE without examining the brain after death. According to an article on CNN.com, a type of brain scan called positron emission tomography (PET) can detect a type of microscopic protein called “tau,” which is thought to be a marker for CTE. This means that it may soon be possible to diagnose CTE in living people, allowing them to get the help they need. (To read more about the scan, click here: Scan may detect signs of NFL players’ brain disease)  Let’s hope this means that no more football players need to shoot themselves in the chest to gain acknowledgment of their pain.

To learn more about concussion and other forms of traumatic brain injury, visit our website at www.lawmed.com/BrainInjury/ … and watch our YouTube video about symptoms of concussion here:

If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.