Sports Out West

Junior Seau’s death related to brain disease CTE

Photo by Dave Sizer / Dave Sizer Photography

Former San Diego Chargers linebacker and Southern California community leader Junior Seau suffered from chronic brain damage that likely contributed to his suicide in May, ESPN reported on Thursday

Seau’s ex-wife and 23-year-old son told the network in an exclusive interview that Seau’s brain tested positive for symptoms related to a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Brain specialists at the National Institutes of Health concluded that several deceased former players have suffered from the same condition. 

“I think it’s important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE,” Gina Seau said in the interview. “It’s important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don’t want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes.”

The symptoms of CTE can be particularly damaging, often causing memory loss, depression and even dementia. Seau’s family was told that in his case, the condition was a result of repeated blows to the head over a long, sustained period. Even though evidence suggested he suffered several, Seau was never officially diagnosed with a concussion during his NFL career. 

His son, Tyler, noticed changes in his behavior that became increasingly noticeable near the end of his life. 

“He would sometimes lose his temper,” Tyler said. “He would get irritable over very small things. And he would take it out on not just myself but also other people that he was close to. And I didn’t understand why.” 

Seau, an Oceanside, Calif. native,  played 20 seasons in the NFL and was a 12-time Pro Bowler. He was drafted by the Chargers in the first round of the 1990 NFL draft out of USC and spent 13 seasons in San Diego. 

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.