Scientists who did not know they were studying the brain of retired football star Junior Seau concluded that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease typically caused by multiple hits to the head, ABC News reported. The disease has been getting more attention as an aftereffect of violent sports such as football and boxing. Seau, 43, killed himself last May in Oceanside after what his family called a slide into depression.
Seau's family donated his brain to neuroscientists at the National Institutes for Health who are conducting ongoing research on traumatic brain injury and football players.
"What was found in Junior Seau's brain was cellular changes consistent with CTE," said Dr. Russell Lonser, chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University, who led the study of Seau's brain while he was at NIH.
Patients with CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, display symptoms "such as impulsivity, forgetfulness, depression, [and] sometimes suicidal ideation," Lonser said.
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his ex-wife with whom he remained close following their divorce, said the linebacker had difficulty sleeping and became withdrawn and "detached emotionally" from his children.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.
Seau starred at USC then went on to a 20-year career in the National Football League.
Previously on LA Observed:
The night Junior Seau introduced a Marine to the ukulele