Autopsy: No apparent damage to Seau's brain
Junior Seau committed suicide May 2 in his Oceanside, California, home.
August 21st, 2012
07:56 AM ET

Autopsy: No apparent damage to Seau's brain

The brain of  former National Football League star Junior Seau showed no apparent signs of damage from Seau's years in professional football, according to an autopsy report released Monday.

Seau's death on May 2 in his Oceanside, California, home was classified as a suicide the next day by  the San Diego County medical examiner.

The autopsy results released Monday showed Seau shot himself in the chest with a hollow-point bullet from a .357-caliber revolver. The bullet hit Seau's heart, spleen and left lung.

He had used zolpidem, a sleep aid sold under the brand name Ambien among others, and naproxen, a pain reliever sold under the brand name Aleve among others, but there were no signs of alcohol, "common drugs of abuse," or other medications, according to the report by deputy medical examiner Craig Nelson.

Seau's suicide came on the heels of the suicides of other former NFL stars, including former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson just over a year earlier.

Duerson shot himself in the chest, which kept his brain intact for examination for a debilitating brain injury called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE.

Duerson was found to have dense clusters of tau protein permeating his brain and spinal cord. Tau is released by neurons when the brain is rocked inside the skull and, when unleashed, tends to lodge in parts of the brain responsible for memory, judgment and mood.

CTE has been found in the brains of 18 of 19 former NFL players studied at Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. Their cases share a common thread repeated concussions, sub-concussive blows to the head, or both.

Immediately after Seau's death, friends and family stepped forward to say the legendary linebacker suffered a number of hits to the head during his 20-year career with the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.

As a linebacker, Seau played "the most havoc-ridden position on the team. He suffered many concussions, so there is a strong sense that it played a role," Shawn Mitchell, Seau's pastor who is also the pastor for the Chargers said at the time.

But the autopsy report released Monday said Seau's body showed "no pre-existing natural disease."

At the request of Seau's family, portions of his brain had been sent to the National Institutes of Health for further study, the autopsy report said.

Seau left no suicide note nor any documents to indicate he might commit suicide, according to the medical examiner's report.

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Filed under: Sports • Health • Football • Pro football
soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. B. Real

    Why did ONLY CNN broke this story?

    Because it's false. "No pre-existing natural disease" doesn't mean the brain was autopsied, nor does it mean they checked for CTE?

    Really embarrassing CNN.

    August 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • B. Real

      Sorry for my grammar! Yikes, I was changing tenses and as pained as I am, it probably looks like 90% of message board posts now. My apologies.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yo Mammy

      I forgive you for the grammar, B. Real – this time. Only this once, though.

      August 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ron

    Re: Francesca......Ambien will Kill you...states Very clearly on bottle..do not take more than 2-3 weeks....like has already been stated.....I almost killed myself when I stopped taking Ambien.....Must be weaned off..not abruptly....
    This stuff is dangerous............like trying to stop xanax

    August 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. truthseeker

    FOOTBALL !!! Don't know what really say about this "sport" but have seen so many sad stories came out of it...

    August 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mattyuno97

    Those type of medications can make people sleepwalk. If abused the person can even lose conciousness while awake. Its very possible that this shot himself while asleep... People can do tasks half asleep and have no recollection of it the next day esspecially if the person toch a heavy dose. Ive seen a friend in highschool sleepwalk on sleeping pills. He was talking to the wall and thought he was talking to his teacher and if u tried talking to him he wouldnt respond cause he asleep that my point...

    August 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CJ

    I find this to be sad that his life ended so tragically and believe that further examination by a specialist in brain injury would be in order. He was a great football player and I feel for his family.

    August 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MRICCI

    I think its important to note that Seau had no signs of CTE. His football history fits the disease like a glove. How he played in the NFL for so long without developing at least the beginning stages of the disease is beyond me. I think this goes to show how little we understand this disease and that far more research needs to be conducted before everyone in the NFL jumps to conclusions. I posted a yak about this article for anyone who wants to discuss this in real time. http://www.yakka.im/yak/autopsy-no-apparent-damage-to-seau-s-brain

    August 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cliff

      MRICCI – It is important that you understand that an autopsy cannot detect CTE. CTE can only be diagnosed by a neuropathological analysis where they stain the tissue for the Tau protien that was found in Duersons' and all the other NFLers brains. This is not done in an autopsy. We cannot say that Junior had or didn't have CTE yet because the tests have not been done yet. The Medical Examiner is unable to rule out or diagnose CTE based on an autopsy.

      August 28, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • dhondi

      MRICCI, No signs of CTE?? Where did you read that?

      August 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. anobody

    Interesting I have a sister-in-law that was taking Ambien and threatened to do herself in with her gun. Her husband had to take all her weapons away from her and alert the family. She was then taken back to her doctor who adjusted her dose. Read the Ambien insert for more information.

    August 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaden

      Ambien is a powerful sleep med you take it and go to bed, some people think it is ok to take it and stay up. If you do you are most likely sleep walking to put it in general terms. It does not cause violent impulses unless of corse they are there to begin with

      August 29, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. rmj

    Another victim of Ambien use? How many people have committed suicide while using the sleep-aid???? Ambien. Putting you in permanent sleep. How many famous people will pass on as a result of Ambien use to call attention to this side effect? A close family member also fell victim. Committing suicide while using Ambien as a sleep aid prescribed by an m.d.

    August 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • ch

      Ambien when used correctly and the dosage it was prescribed is help for patients suffering from sleep disorders. WHEN it is abused or a person isn't weaned off the prescription, they become dependent on the product.

      Ambien (generic name Zolpidem) does not put you in a permanent sleep. The user puts themselves in a permanent sleep.

      If you had an actual idea about the product you would find that they have used this drug to wake people from comas...

      August 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • furrycatherder

      I had a prescription for Ambien and I followed the instructions to the letter. I took it, I climbed in bed, I turned off the TeeVee, I put down the laptop and 8 or so hours later, I woke up.

      Whenever I read about someone who took Ambien with alcohol, or wasn't ready for bed, or engaged in a few last minute tasks, I wonder what the hell they are thinking.

      I've had issues with insomnia my entire life and if the people can't learn to respect Ambien wind up get it banned, I'm going to be upset.

      August 29, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Doosh-LaRooush

    Guess he was just a crybaby

    August 28, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaden

      : ) right but ill and depressed with a hand gun might better fit

      August 29, 2012 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
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