Junior Seau is inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame during halftime of a game in 2011.
Renowned former NFL linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year, suffered from the serious brain disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that was likely caused by numerous hits to the head he sustained during his two-decade playing career.
Seau’s family donated his brain to the National Institutes of Health after the 43-year-old former San Diego Chargers star shot himself in the chest at his Oceanside, Calif., home in May. The NIH is performing research on traumatic head injuries and former football players.
“What was found in Junior Seau’s brain was cellular changes consistent with CTE,” said Dr. Russell Lonser, who led the study at NIH.
About 4,000 retired NFL players are suing the league over allegations that it doesn’t do enough to protect its athletes from head injuries.
Patients with CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, display symptoms “such as impulsivity, forgetfulness, depression, [and] sometimes suicidal ideation,” Lonser said.
Seau’s family described to ABC News and ESPN a long descent into depression in the years prior to his death.
Gina Seau, his ex-wife with whom he remained close following their divorce, said the linebacker had difficulty sleeping and became withdrawn and “detached emotionally” from his children. In one exchange, he described his mood as “low” and “dark.”
“A lot of things, towards the end of his life, patterns that we saw and things that worried us, it makes sense now,” she said of the diagnosis.