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Entries in Junior Seau (3)

Monday
May072012

Junior Seau: Safety Debate Continues as Family Delays Brain Donation

Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- The family of Junior Seau, the NFL football star who died last week, is now reconsidering donating his brain to science, backing off their decision last week to let his brain be examined for signs of traumatic injury.

"The Seau family is currently revisiting several important family decisions and placing them on hold in order to confer with their elders," said Pastor Shawn Mitchell, the longtime San Diego Chargers' chaplain, in a statement. The Seaus are of Samoan descent, and elders are the most respected and highly regarded in a Samoan family. They are often consulted when making family decisions. It is unclear when the family now plans to make its final decision regarding the brain donation.

Seau, 43, who played for the Chargers as well as the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, was found dead last Wednesday at his home in Oceanside, Calif., apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Medical examiners ruled his death a suicide.

On Thursday evening, the family said they hoped that the brain donation would help others "down the road."

Seau's death has sent shockwaves through the sports and science worlds, but experts have cautioned that it is too early to determine whether Seau's suicide was linked to potential concussions he likely experienced during his 20-year NFL career.

Jacopo Annese, director of the University of California at San Diego's Brain Observatory, said there has not been a definitive link shown between blows to the head and such disorders as depression, dementia and Alzheimer's, but he did say there is strong scientific and anecdotal evidence.

While research methodology has not changed dramatically, the questions have evolved, offering clues into the potential lifetime adverse effects of hits and concussions.

"Like searching for the link between traumatic injury and more subtle and insidious effects like depression, suicide, and dementia," said Annese. "This has been particularly crucial in the world of sports where unprecedented body mass and acceleration create the scenario for severe trauma if there is a collision."

The death of Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowl player, came only one day before more than 100 former NFL players filed a federal lawsuit in Atlanta, claiming the league did not properly protect them against concussions and did not provide proper medical care after they finished their careers.

Seau's death bears a resemblance to that of other athletes in hard-hitting sports, including Chicago Bears football player Dave Duerson. Duerson shot himself in the chest in February of last year. Duerson's family filed a wrongful death suit against the NFL, saying the league did not protect against concussions. Several former NFL players have committed suicide in recent years, and many experts believe the deaths could be related to repeated blows to the head. In addition to Duerson, ex-Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Terry Long and Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters took their own lives. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative and progressive disease found in people who have experienced multiple blows to the head, has shown up in the brains of several former athletes who committed suicide, including Duerson.

CTE has similar brain features to those of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's disease.

As of October, more than 500 current and former professional athletes agreed to donate their brains to the VA Brain Bank, which works in affiliation with the Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. Annese said the Brain Observatory at UCSD has been in contact with several athletes who are considering participating in the brain donation program.

"Like Mr. Seau, they feel that they personally hold many of the answers needed to know how to make their sport safer for future generations," said Annese. "The examination of the brain is only the final and definitive chapter of a long narrative that we create working with our participants."

The average life expectancy of a retired football player is 58, according to the NFL Players Association. That is far less than the average American man's life expectancy of 75 years, according to government data from 2006. Repeated blows to the head may disturb neurotransmitters that affect mood, and may also damage parts of the brain that have to do with impulse control and the ability to weigh the long-term consequences of decisions.

But until more research has been done, experts caution against definitively linking the hits Seau took on the field and his suicide.

In 2009, the NFL instituted new rules that require clearance from independent neurologists to allow players who suffered concussions to return to the field. The league also imposed stricter guidelines to reduce the number of helmet-to-helmet hits.

"What happened to Junior Seau is terribly sad," said Annese. "The least us scientists can do is to match his dedication to his sport and his community with our own dedication to research, finding the reasons for such tragedy, so that it does not have to happen again."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May042012

Junior Seau's Family Donates His Brain to Science

Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- Junior Seau's family plans to donate his brain to science, San Diego Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell announced Thursday evening.

While Seau's family has said it is not looking to discover anything new about their son and what led to his death, said Mitchell, it hopes that others can benefit through anything that can be learned through the study of his brain.

Jacopo Annese, director of the University of California at San Diego's Brain Observatory, said that while there is no definitive link between blows to the head and such severe health problems as depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, he did say there was strong scientific and anecdotal evidence for such a connection.

"However ghoulish it may appear to the majority of the public, the work that is conducted postmortem is essential to validate this hypothesis, because the important clues are at the cellular-level, and we can't see these with MRI, but we can with our microscopes," Annese told ABC News.

While research methodology has not changed dramatically, the questions have evolved, offering clues into the potential lifetime adverse effects of hits and blows to the head.

"Searching for the link between traumatic injury and more subtle and insidious effects like depression, suicide and dementia," said Annese, "has been particularly crucial in the world of sports, where unprecedented body mass and acceleration create the scenario for severe trauma if there is a collision."

On Thursday, the San Diego County Coroner ruled former longtime NFL linebacker Junior Seau's death a suicide.

Officials conducted a forensic autopsy, which includes "a full examination of a decedent's body and organs and collection of specimens for laboratory studies."

Seau, 43, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest Wednesday morning at his Oceanside, Calif. home.

The 12-time former Pro Bowl player's death came one day before more than 100 former NFL players filed a federal lawsuit in Atlanta, claiming the league did not properly protect them against concussions and did not properly provide medical care after they finished their careers.

On Thursday morning, rumors swirled as to whether Seau shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be studied. He didn't leave a note, but Sports Illustrated reported Thursday that Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy requested to study Seau's brain. The sports mag later clarified the statement by saying the center attempts to examine the brains of all athletes who die after making a career playing hard-hitting sports. It is not known where Seau's brain will be sent for study.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May032012

Junior Seau's Death: Is There a Brain Injury Link? 

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The circumstances coming to light about the death of former NFL linebacker Junior Seau may highlight what some doctors see as a growing link between head trauma, mental illness and suicide, a connection that has come to the forefront of sports safety research in the last decade.

Seau was found dead from a gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Oceanside, Calif., Wednesday morning.

If Seau did indeed commit suicide, his death would bear a resemblance to that of other athletes in hard-hitting sports, including Chicago Bears football player Dave Duerson. Duerson shot himself in the chest in February of last year.

Seau played in the NFL for 20 years for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. On Wednesday, Chargers Chaplain Shawn Mitchell told ABC News that Seau died of a "self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest this morning." Seau was 43 and leaves behind three children and an ex-wife, Gina Deboer.

The Chargers released a statement to ABC News' San Diego affiliate: "Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family."

The case may be similar to that of Duerson, who left a note requesting his brain be sent to the "NFL brain bank" for study.

Several former NFL players have committed suicide in recent years, and many experts believe the deaths could be related to repeated blows to the head. In addition to Duerson, ex-Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Terry Long and Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters took their own lives. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative and progressive disease found in people who have experienced multiple blows to the head, has shown up in the brains of several former athletes who committed suicide, including Duerson's.

CTE has similar brain features to that of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's disease.

Last May, Dr. Ann McKee, co-director of Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, a research center that studied Duerson's brain after his death, told reporters that Duerson "had classic pathology of CTE and no evidence of any other disease," ESPN reported at the time.

"Exactly how the brain damage causes mood disturbance is not clear," said Dr. John Whyte, director of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute in Philadelphia, who does not know Seau's medical history. "There could be biological changes going on, or changes in the neurotransmitters that affect mood, or it could be a psychological factor that this brain injury has disrupted work and family life so much that it has really changed your life."

Until more research has been done, Whyte said the public should not jump to conclude a definitive link between concussions that Seau may have experienced in his career and death. But repeated blows to the head may also damage parts of the brain that have to do with impulse control and the ability to weigh the long-term consequences of decisions.

A concussion is caused when the brain is shaken so hard that it hits the inside of the skull, resulting in brain trauma. Studies have contributed to the growing concern over head injuries, particularly concussions, in football and other contact sports.

For reasons that remain unclear to experts, having one concussion makes a person more prone to further concussions. According to a study published in Neurosurgery last year, American football players who sustained three or more concussions were significantly more likely to develop depression and were five times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

According to statistics from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, about 47 percent of high school football players sustain at least one concussion each season. And 35 percent of those who reportedly suffered from a concussion actually sustained two or more in the same season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 2 million brain injuries are suffered by teenage players every year.

While there is more concern over players and suicide, Whyte said sports are likely becoming less dangerous because of all the research being devoted to safety guidelines, proper equipment and the aftermath of a career of brain injuries.

In 2009, the NFL instituted new rules that require clearance from independent neurologists to allow players who suffered concussions to return to the field. The league also imposed stricter guidelines to reduce the number of helmet-to-helmet hits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio