(dailyRx News) One of the most feared linebackers in the NFL died today as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
Seau was found in his Oceanside, California home after a 911 call by his housekeeper, TMZ reported Wednesday, May 2.
San Diego police reported that the gunshot wound appeared to be self-inflicted, and they are investigating the event.
Seau, 43, played for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots during his 20-year career in the NFL. He was named to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls and a first team All-Pro six times during his career.
He played 241 games during his career, the third highest total by a linebacker in the NFL. He announced his retirement in 2010, but never officially retired from the NFL.
In 2010, media outlets covered a car accident that was suspected of being a suicide attempt, but Seau denied he was trying to hurt himself. TMZ reported that family members did not notice any signs of depression in the few weeks before his suicide. An investigation is ongoing into the current and past events that led up to his death.
NFL players are at risk for repeated head injuries. The build-up of damage to the brain after repeated mild concussions is termed chronic traumatic encephalopathy and is associated with personality changes, memory disturbances and motor deficits.
Research reported in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found a connection between psychological distress and concussive head injuries. In this study, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation were related to scores on a test of cognitive function that is used to assess concussion recovery.
It is not clear that Junior Seau was suffering from depression or that any football-related injuries contributed to his suicide. However, the long-term effects of repeated concussions on the mental health of football players is a topic of investigation.
dailyRx spoke with Daniel Clearfield, DO, a sports medicine physician, about the possibility that Seau’s suicide could be linked to brain injuries that he may have experienced in his 20-year career.
“Whether we can attribute this to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), secondary to multiple mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs, or concussions) is to be determined," Dr. Clearfield said. "I would really not be surprised to find on autopsy that he has evidence of CTE."
"Seau is part of the group of football players who came up that were bigger, faster, and hit harder. I am sure he was taught to "tough it out" or "shake it off" with a concussion just as I and several athletes of this generation were instructed," Dr. Clearfield said.
"A very sad story and very much likely will not be the last one of these cases we hear about,“ he added.