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: Football • Health • Pro football • Sports
soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. Rascal Rabble

    i don't know about that...zolpidem is known culprit to cause sleep walking...was this shooting a result of drug-induced sleep walking activity...people have gotten hurt taken that drug....y'all might wanna check again...

    August 21, 2012 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
    • SPW

      That's actually an interesting theory.

      August 21, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • sandy

      As a former ambien user, I wondered the same thing. I did many dangerous things on that drug before I realized what a problem it was. I'm one of the lucky ones that realized the danger I was in and was putting my family in before it was too late. Ambien should be taken off the market.

      August 21, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sinfully Yours

    No apparent damage to Seau's brain...no kidding! I mean, the guy shot himself in the chest! It even says it in the article:
    "The bullet hit Seau's heart, spleen and left lung."

    Its kind of hard to damage one's brain when you shoot yourself straight through the chest, unless you are some sort of freak of nature.

    August 21, 2012 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
    • chocolog

      Good day for trolling?

      August 21, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • drny

      Try reading the whole article. Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest last year to leave his brain available for study. As it turned out, there was damage to his brain. Thoughts were perhaps Seau had done the same. You need to read before commenting.

      August 21, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Iknowhowtoread

      I'm pretty sure they were referring to no damage to his brain from his years in the NFL – not from the gsw.

      August 21, 2012 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      Ah, the lost art of sarcasm. Perhaps they should teach a class on it in High School or even Middle School for everyone. But then again... 😉

      August 21, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • jimbo

      They thought his brain was damaged by years of playing football, not because of the shooting. What planet are you on? No wonder this country is going down the tubes.

      August 21, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • PEDO BEAR

      Pay the Troll Toll there jimbo. I think Sinfully Yours just got you.

      August 21, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      Hey Barney, no need for such language here. We are all friends. 😛
      Besides, I did read the article and it clearly states:

      "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."

      Its very obvious that there was no damage to Seau's brain based on where he shot himself. Even Dr Seuss could have came to that conclusion without needing to perform an autopsy!

      August 21, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      @kmac:
      Concussions?! Why are we talking about concussions?! the dude turned his chest into a wind-chime. Unless we are talking "magic bullets" here like those JFK conspiracy theorists, there is no way he could have suffered brain damage from the bullet to his chest.

      August 21, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      sinfully yours- you just blew my mind hahahahaha, talk about not having a clue

      August 21, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      @ John
      Blew your mind?! Why is everyone stuck on this head/brain thing?! The dude blasted a hole in his chest large enough to park a Yugo!

      August 21, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      if you knew anything about sports- football mainly you would know that concussions have been a strongly debated topic- specifically the long term effects of concussions on players. nfl players have come together to sue the nfl for negligence on the issue and the dave guy forementioned did the same thing, blew his chest out so medical examiners could examine his brain for damage. junior was doing the same thing, he believed he had brain damage from playing football and shot himself in the chest to preserve his brain. now that you are up to speed, do you see how your comments were ridiculous? do alittle research before filling in the blanks with your conclusions

      August 21, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      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.

      I mean thats the opening paragraph hahaha

      August 21, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      @ john
      Again with the brain talk. Seriously, what gives?! The juggernaut shot himself in the chest and died from it. Why do you keep talking about brains?! You even state that "dave guy forementioned did the same thing, blew his chest out so medical examiners could examine his brain for damage." What a smart man: shooting himself in the chest as well so that they could examine his brain for damage! They aren't going to find any damage from a gunshot wound to the chest in his brain. I don't get it, these NFL players should rethink taking Anatomy 101.

      August 21, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      you have to be kidding me right? hahahaha, like you are being sarcastic, right......?

      August 21, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      because i cant tell if you are really just that sarcastic or really just not able to comprehend

      August 21, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • anobody

      At least we now know who's brain is damaged

      August 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. WH

    Nobody cares how badly injured the players are as long as there are massive profits to be made from it. Ancient Rome anyone?

    August 21, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      I am all for it: massive battles between gladiators in a giant stadiu...oh wait, we have that.

      I guess, they just need to all kinds of beasts in the battle as well: lions and bears would be perfect...Wait! they have those already too?!

      D@mn! I guess they thought about everything! Unless, what about bringing in a giant ship! And we can have buccaneers duke....WHAT?! You have to be kidding me! They have those already! I give up...

      August 21, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      Players don't go into the profession blindly. They know what they're getting into... and they're getting paid handsomely for it. And, in this case, it seems that football injuries have no direct correlation to the suicide.

      August 21, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • claybigsby

      "Nobody cares how badly injured the players are as long as there are massive profits to be made from it."

      Yeah, including the players themselves.

      August 21, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tebojockey

    "Uh-oh! Back to the kicthen...think I smell somethin' burnin'!"
    So much for any hope of monetary recovery on CTE for Seau's family. Probably best not to speculate on the cause of death until the actual medical reports come back. Now everyone has foot-in-mouth disease that was associated with this. A tragedy all around, but we should not jump to conclusions about causes until it is clinically decided.

    August 21, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. Scott

    It matters that every effort is put into trying to determine what caused him taking his own life. He was such a great person, great athlete and gave much back to the community and the children of the community. It is heartbreaking that this happened at all. But we can not allow it to happen again if possible. Please do all you can to find the root cause.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Ned

      He had do do between his ears. And was a spoiled athlete.

      August 21, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • claybigsby

      " He was such a great person,"

      LOL being arrested for domestic violence makes you a great person?

      August 21, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. kmac

    Have seen a number of reports on Ambien as med being used by individuals with suicide attempts. Of course on sign/sympton of depression is sleep problems. Sertonin is suspected in depression. Wonder if they were able to take a level in his brain.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Mort the Warlock

      His brain was a level 17 dark elf warlock that worships the god Bhaal. I think he was of chaotic Evil alignment, but he hadn't played with us in years. Not since Boo's space hamster embarassed him in our eppic battle against the evil Beholder that came from the 9th dimension aboard the Evengail along the Treasure Coast!

      By the way, can I get another Hot pocket please?

      August 21, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • freudiangolf

      Ambien would be high on the suspect list. It jacks with the neurotransmitters, and known side effects include worsening of depression and suicidal thoughts.... It's an ugly drug...

      August 21, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ned

    I think he was just another spoiled athlete.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. duh

    Naval battles were also recreated at gladiator games. The arena was flooded and ships were brought-in.
    Know your history and then open mouth. ty

    August 21, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. Shannon

    for all you fools saying he was a spoiled athlete, shame on you. football is a tough sport and they work hard. i don't like football because it's too violent but i'm not going to call them, especially the ones that commit suicide, spoiled or overpaid. they play for the love of the sport and of course the fame and money, but it's "us" that loves them and pays them. this trend in professional football is tragic. and actually it's not just the professionals – high school boys and college kids die in football practice and games. it may be time to seriously consider changing or ending the sport. switch to soccer – it's safer and more universally accepted.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Ling Quan

      oh boo hoo. Of course they are overpaid thugs. Look how many end up in prison after they are through playing a children's game.

      August 21, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      "they play for the love of the sport" 🙂 L O L. Rotflmao. :). Just spoiled creeps.

      August 21, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. Rod C. Venger

    There goes the Seau family lawsuit against the NFL, huh?

    August 21, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. john goddards

    I AGREE. And being a "conspiracy Nut," has anyone read "Best EVIDENCE" on JFK? Just asking. Do not think Oswald new what was happening. That is the case with many people who do not get a chance to tell their side of the story.!!! Think I would rather believe Jackie than the politicians and media.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. 49er

    I agree. I thought the girlfriend did it too. They need to look at the girlfriend. Is she dating again? Maybe her new bf did it.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mary Jane

    Suicide can't be explained because it's the ultimate irrational act. You are looking for an answer to a question that can't be solved. Any attempt at reasoning is merely speculation on the part of the living, and the person who takes their life does so because they have decided the pain of life is to much to bear. So our attempts to pick one reason or the other is simply an attempt to figure out an act that can't be explained. Taking your own life goes against every single basic instinct...Read other stories that make you go huh? at drinkitall blogspot com

    August 21, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. 22X Richer

    Once again, everyone jumped on the bandwagon to blame the game.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. jcvet33

    He probably had a woman getting ready to take everything he had and make the remainder of his life a living hell.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • DeShaun

      Yeah. A white woman. They are pure meanness. My mama said no matter what I do dont ever mess with them white womens.

      August 21, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
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