The devastating death of an NFL player teammates described as “Superman.” Junior Seau was known for his exuberant personality, fierce determination, charm, energy and enthusiasm. The NFL lost him when he retired last fall at age 43, but the world lost his light for good on May 2. Friends and family are bewildered, wondering how could it be that this loving, always upbeat man could take his own life so suddenly, without warning or reason.
Shock and Sadness for Seau’s Passing
The news came as a surprise to everyone. Even Seau’s mother was dumbfounded. “I don’t understand … I’m shocked,” Luisa Seau chokingly told reporters. Junior seemed fine when she spoke to him earlier in the week. He was upbeat and joking with her, calling her “home girl.” San Diego Chargers President Dean Spacos released the following statement: “We all lost a friend today. This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine.”
In the sea of confusion, though, links are being made between Seau’s and other NFL players’ suicides and possible causes. Junior Seau’s death is one in a string of tragic, potentially preventable deaths at the hands of a system that fails to recognize the vital need for better player protection. In less than two years, the professional football industry lost two other players under similar circumstances: Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling.
Dying to Play
Many believe Seau, and others, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a deadly degenerative brain disease caused by repeated brain injuries. The disease can’t be diagnosed while a person is living. Only after the tragedy occurs can doctors determine if the patient suffered the affliction. Could all three suicides be a result of CTE?
An autopsy confirmed Duerson suffered from CTE, but not enough time has passed since Easterling’s
April suicide or Seau’s death last week to know if they too suffered from the disease. CTE is impossible to diagnose in the living and takes time to identify in the dead. We won’t know for another 4 to 6 weeks if Seau suffered from the condition, according to ABC 7.
What the League Didn’t Do
Clearly, football is a punishing sport, but it doesn’t have to result in long-term damage. Doctors know that CTE comes about because of repeated concussions. They recommend players refrain from full contact sports after a concussion until the player is symptom free. This can take five days or much longer, depending on the player and the injury.
Those guidelines were not in place during Seau’s career. His ex-wife mentioned that he suffered many concussions and that instead of resting, he “bounced back.” She described him as a warrior, attesting that all football players do the same thing. They accept concussions as part of the game and soldier on.
According to the Brain Injury Law Center’s own Stephen Smith, “…in regard to the loss of Junior Seau, suicide is one of the highest risk factors for every brain injury survivor. Brain injury professionals have known this for decades, and the NFL has known this since at least the early 90s, yet they have done nothing to protect or assist these athletes who are injured while playing.”
Limited Options for Injured Players
Attorney Smith recently attended the NFL Players Concussion conference. He says, “I was saddened to see these once proud athletes with severe memory loss, inability to multitask and inability to perform in an adult world. It was a typical group of brain injury survivors. What the general public does not understand is the number of concussions that these athletes have suffered in their professional careers.”
It is indeed heartbreaking to see great athletes struggling with permanent injuries that could have been prevented. Luckily, some are aware of the risks they face and can be monitored by doctors, family and friends. More than 1,500 players are involved in a class action lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that for years the league hid the link between repeated concussions and brain damage.
Seau’s family is not part of the brain injury class action lawsuit, although Easterling’s family is participating. Duerson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and Seau’s family is doing the same, based on the NFL’s alleged failure to protect him. Like Duerson, Seau ending his life by shooting himself in the chest.
If you or a loved one suffers from traumatic brain injury, contact our offices right away. The law limits the time available for filing a claim, so it is important you act quickly. Our experienced attorneys will offer a free consultation and help you secure compensation for your injuries.