[Updated at 11:06 a.m. ET] The family of former NFL star Junior Seau, who authorities say committed suicide this week, has decided to let researchers study his brain to see whether it was damaged by concussions suffered during his football career, San Diego Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell said Friday.
Seau was found Wednesday in his Oceanside, California, home with what authorities said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. It is not clear if Seau left a note or an explanation.
The family made the decision to allow the research in hopes it will help NFL players and others in the future, Mitchell said.
Since news of Seau's death broke, there has been speculation about whether repeated hits to his head over the linebacker's 20-year pro career could be a contributing factor.
There is no evidence Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease brought on by multiple concussions, though friends and family have stepped forward to say the legendary linebacker suffered a number of hits to the head during his career.
The San Diego County medical examiner's office said a final autopsy report may take up to 90 days to complete. The autopsy confirmed Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
Among the institutions the family could donate Seau's brain to is Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, the research center that found former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson suffered degenerative damage to his brain because of repeated hits.
Duerson committed suicide, shooting himself in the chest in 2011 and leaving a suicide note that said he wanted his brain studied for possible damage.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, warned against drawing a conclusion in Seau's case, though he said there were striking similarities between his death and other cases involving football players.
The only way to determine whether Seau suffered CTE is to analyze the brain tissue for "hallmarks of the dementia-like disease," Gupta said.
"We can't know, unless Junior Seau's" brain is analyzed in this way, whether his death was related to CTE, he said.
Though Seau had no reported documented history of concussions, Gupta said "the hits don't necessarily result in diagnosed concussion, but the brain is rattled over and over again."
Seau's death follows last month's suicide of former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, the lead plantiff in a class action lawsuit against the NFL over concussion-related injuries. The lawsuit names more than 1,000 professional players.
More than 100 former professional football players added their names Thursday to the growing list of people suing the NFL, saying it "repeatedly refuted the connection between concussions and brain injury," according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta by attorney Mike McGlamry.
The NFL has repeatedly dismissed the allegations, saying player safety is a priority. "Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit," it said.FULL STORY