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. toby

    His restauarant in SD mission valley had decent pizza

    August 21, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    Well, that put *that* theory to rest.

    August 21, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  3. Squeezebox

    Could it have been garden variety depression causing Seau's symptoms?

    August 21, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Squeezebox

      Seau's suicide isn't entirely for nothing. At least the researchers now have an NFL "control" to compare other players' brains against.

      August 21, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Yup and, based on the meds in his system, he was not getting treatment for it. Perhaps, when he heard about the effects of concussion, he simply assumed *that* was what was wrong with him, so there was nothing that could be done for *him*.

      That's one of the most insidious things about severe depression...you get so depressed you can't see a way out, so assume there is no way out, so don't get help because you don't believe there *is* any help.

      The sad thing is that there *is* effective treatment and people *can* recover. He could have been one of them.

      August 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chargers Fan

    I think it wasn't suicide! I think his gf did it!!

    August 21, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Chargers Fan

      sorry I had typed it too fast, I meant, I DON'T think it was suicide, I think his gf did it!

      August 21, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Thank you for your learned input, Sherlock.

      August 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DolFan

    Well though there is a higher risk of brain damage to repeated concussions, there is also a possibilty that he being a football player, he had a lot of anger issues. Also Daniel Tosh knows that pro football players hate life after retirement anyway, so it's expected that he is depressed. I mean look how many times Brett Favre had to retire. (Not that I view Daniel Tosh as an expert, but he does have a point)

    August 21, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • zrxgrim

      Well though there is a higher risk of brain damage to repeated concussions, there is also a possibilty that like many people, he had a lot of anger issues. Also many people hate life after retirement anyway, so it's possible he was depressed.

      ftfy

      August 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. truebob

    If he didn't leave a note and it wasn't a head shot, why are they so sure it was intentional?

    August 21, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • MrBlack

      Forensics?

      August 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Apparently you don't realize that most suicides do NOT leave a note.

      August 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bella63

    Prayers and condolences for Junior's family and friends. He created so many wonderful memories for Chargers fans. He deserves respect in death, not a bunch of theories and negativity. RIP, Junior.

    August 21, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. TheDoug

    Does the coroner have the tools to test for CTE? I'm guessing he/she probably does not.

    August 21, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Uh...why on earth do you think it's hard to determine the presence of dense clusters of tau protein in the brain and spinal cord???

      August 21, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bettys

    He was a football player who made millions. What do people expect to happen when they have a bunch ot 300 lb men jumping on and hitting them? The risks are a part of the game. It is rough. You dont like the risk? Dont play. If they eliminate the risks, they might as well call it soccer

    August 21, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    Since they were so insistent on an autopsy so they could join the NFL lawsuit, I'm sure his family is beating down the door asking who they need to make a check out to for the autopsy cost. NOT

    August 21, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. GodfatherofSoul

    My conspiracy theory is all these mental issues are a result of steroid use, not concussions.

    August 21, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  12. dazzle ©

    He committed suicide and left no note. This has to be very painful for his family not knowing the whys. So what, that Ambien and Alleve were found during the autopsy. Common meds. In any case where an MD prescribes something, any person would be wise to do their own research on the drug and make their own decision. Drs aren't Gods. You conspiracy theory nuts, just give it a rest.

    August 21, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I see someone is trolling me again dazzle ©.
      Gee, wonder who it can be?

      August 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @banasy, I see that. Of course it is the same old story there.

      August 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Meat&Dairy

    @Godfather. Let US hope you are wrong. Steroids and hormones used to be illegal for meat and dairy. Now, virtually all meat and dairy is processed using these drugs known to make not only lab rats and cattle fatter, but as our nationwide obesity epidemic shows, make people fatter too.
    Let's hope obesity has nothing to do with overeating, also.

    August 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy©

    This is true.
    Without a suicide note, they never WILL know.

    August 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dan

    I guess the family won't be suing the NFL after all.

    August 21, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
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