Junior Seau's grieving family does NOT believe the former football great's death was related to on-field concussions he sustained as a player, but his suicide has nevertheless renewed an ongoing debate over the NFL and brain injuries.
Police found Junior Seau dead yesterday at his San Diego County home.
Seau family sources tell say the death shocked them even more than it did his many fans, as Junior never complained about concussion-related medical problems, nor did he mention or appear to be suffering from depression.
Seau never spoke, allegedly, about the ongoing legal dispute between the NFL and retired players who claim the league concealed critical information about long-term effects of concussions over the past few decades.
Junior's apparent suicide, from a gunshot wound to the chest, instantly drew comparisons to the death of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson.
Duerson left a suicide note explaining he shot himself in the chest because he wanted his brain to be sent to the "NFL brain bank" for further study.
Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes, longtime researcher into brain damage from concussions, responded with grief and medical questions about what toll Junior's lengthy football career (20 seasons) might have taken on the 43-year-old.
"As both a football fan and a researcher, the news comes with great sadness first of all for such a great player. But I think we have to add him to the list of those that we worry about who could have effects of chronic, repetitive brain trauma," said Bailes.
The chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago added, "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."
"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."