When he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, future NFL Hall of Famer Junior Seau was suffering from CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma, according to reports.
The diagnosis of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, was made by the National Institutes of Health, according to the Associated Press. The NIH studied three unidentified brains for abnormalities and found in Seau's abnormalities consistent with CTE.
Seau played pro football for 20 years. He was a star linebacker for the San Diego Chargers and also played for Miami and New England.
CTE causes behavior and mood abnormalities and is only diagnosed by a postmorterm inspection, according to reports. At least 34 former pro football players have been found to have suffered from CTE, the AP reported.
Seau's family requested the brain investigation.
Seau suffered from mood swings, irritability, forgetfulness, insomnia, depression, and other mental issues, his family said.
The NFL released a statement in which it thanked the NIH for the study. The NFL, which has been criticized for hiding the impact and frequency of concussions from players and the public, has given $30 million to the NIH to study CTE further.
Two other NFL players, Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling, have committed suicide due to mental issues in recent years. One, Duerson, a former Chicago Bears defensive back, left a note asking that his brain be studied for signs of trauma, the AP reported.
Seau's progeny all appear athletically gifted but are staying away from football. Ex-wife Gina Seau's son, Jake, had played high school football but has since switched to lacrosse. He has been recruited to play at Duke.
Hunter Seau, the couple's 12-year old son, has expressed no interest in football.