Each Chicago brain injury lawyer at our firm was saddened to hear yesterday about the death of well-known former football player Junior Seau. Seau was widely considered one of the best linebackers to ever play the game. Those familiar with the sport know that linebackers take (and give) some of the toughest, repeated hits while on the field. The helmet and head contact involved in tackling is significant, and linebackers’ main job is to make those tackles. Over the course of a long NFL career-and a lifetime of football playing generally-the overall toll of those hits is likely severe.
Those basic head injury concerns are being widely discussed following Seau’s death, because many suspect his playing days-and the brain injury that might have resulted-was the cause of his death. Officially, initial reports suggest that his death was a suicide. He was found yesterday with a gunshot wound in the chest. The manner of death was eerily similar to the suicide of former Chicago Bear great Dave Duerson. Duerson similarly died from a self-inflicted shot through the chest. He left a note specifically indicating that he wanted his brain donated to science to help the research into the long-term consequences of brain injuries. It is unclear if Seau made any recent requests, but a family friend said that he heard Seau say that he wanted his brain donated in the past.
A recent story on the tragedy from 10 News talked about the observations of some experts in the field. A doctor who has spent considerable time studying NFL brain injuries said that he had few doubts that Seau’s passing was linked to brain injuries that he likely developed over his playing career. A previous study on these injuries out of Boston University found that at least 20 former NFL players were identified with clear brain disease following their retirement.
Interestingly, the doctor suggests that the finding about the severity and scope of the problem should spur better treatment for affected players. He noted that, like other injuries, there are ways that brain injuries can be rehabbed. The doctor suggested that about 80% of players can show much improvement after a few months of targeted brain damage rehabilitation. Unfortunately, many players do not get help. As the recent tragedies demonstrate, the consequences of a lack of treatment are deadly.
Our Illinois brain injury attorneys are aware that this most recent tragedy comes amid an on-going lawsuit filed by former players against the National Football League. The lawsuit alleges that the NFL failed to properly warn players about the long-term damage that comes with the sport. Of course the lawsuit doesn’t allege that the NFL is ultimately responsible for all brain injuries that result from the playing of the game. Instead, the suit is centered on what the NFL could have done or should have done to minimize the risk and allow players a better understanding of the long-term consequences they were exposing themselves to when deciding to step out onto the field each game.
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