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Former NFL Star Junior Seau’s Brain Tissue to be Studied

Earlier this year the professional sports community was shocked to learn of the passing of former NFL linebacker Junior Seau. The San Diego Chargers star died in May, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Our Chicago brain injury lawyers know that very soon after his passing many questions started being asked about a possible cause for the suicide; brain damage caused by his playing days was commonly mentioned.

Seau’s death marked the third suicide by a former NFL football player in the past few months alone. For example, well-known former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson similarly died following a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He had previously complained of memory loss, blurred vision, and headaches. These incidents and similar examples have led more than 2,000 former players to file suit against the NFL alleging that they deliberately concealed information about the risk of brain damage from hard hits on the field.

We have often discussed the myriad of issues related to brain injuries in football players. Medical evidence has mounted in recent years showing serious brain issues in athletes who take repeated hits to the head. The risk is highest in those who play the game longests (like college and professional players) and in games with built-in head contact–like football, hockey, and soccer.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the new evidence posits that players may suffer permanent, lifelong brain injuries even if they do not have a single, obvious injury. In other words, the injuries are often hidden, lurking without obvious symptoms until later on, when the injury manifests itself in various ways. The hidden nature of the injury means that many players do not receive the rest and treatment they need to recover and prevent serious harm. However, as more and more information comes out regarding the risks, it is becoming increasingly important for all those involved in athlete safety to take note and make changes to keep players safe.

Donated to Science
It is likely that more and more information about these sports brain injuries will come out as many more research efforts are underway. For example, a report from Reuters, noted that Junior Seau’s brain will now officially be donated to science. Many speculated that this would be the case shortly after his passing.

According to the report the brain was sent to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for analysis. The NIH is the nation’s “primary biomedical institution.” The researchers will not be directly involved in determining the cause of death. Instead, the physicians of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke will use it as part of their overall research on traumatic brain injury. The particular results will not be discussed to protect the family, but the information will be used as part of their overall TBI research efforts.

Our Chicago brain injury attorneys understand that research is the key to minimizing the harms of TBIs. A better understanding of the issue helps in two ways. On one hand more awareness will hopefully be translated into more steps taken to prevent harm before it occurs. In addition better treatment methods may one day be unveiled to help those already affected by the harm.

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