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. Kay

    The only ninny is you...who obviously knows nothing about PTSD or depression. Including the fact that neither one has anything whatsoever to do with "pride".

    Indeed, your comment makes no more sense than claiming "citizens who are proud of America do not get cancer".

    Pride has NOTHING to do with illness! You can't be too proud to get sick. You can only be too proud (false pride, at that) to *admit* that you're sick, and get help. BIG DIFFERENCE.

    August 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Fiona

    Could he have been pushed toward suicide by the erroneous belief that he suffered from CTE, and therefore assumed his future guaranteed the increasing loss of faculties and control of moods? I think so.

    August 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • RobertN

      That's probably a more accurate theory than all the others being thrown around. Fear of what he thought was coming, whether it really was or not, may have been overwhelming.

      August 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cutie

    Maybe he was murdered after all.

    August 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Realist

    Maybe he was just unhappy. As hard as it is for some to fathom, to some life is just depressing and ending it is the best outcome they can imagine. People will always look for someone else or something, like hits to the head, to blame but the sad truth is life often just sucks, and sometimes people aren’t quite sure how to deal with it. Sad but true.

    August 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    One possibility that might explain the sudden rise in military related suicides is the use of Astra-Zeneca's Seroquel prescribed to soldiers diagnosed with PTSD.
    Astra-Zeneca, who posted a 6 billion dollar profit from sales of Seroquel last year, maintains that Seroquel should NOT be prescribed for soldiers suffering from PTSD. However, Seroquel prescriptions to Army personnel have risen 10 fold since 2003, the year uS troops invaded iraq. Fully 1.4% of ALL Army active-duty take Seroquel for their depression related issues.
    Obviously then, there is a link between drug use and suicide not only among citizens, but also among the Army, who posted new all-time suicide records last month.

    August 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • RobertN

      Nothing obvious about it. Once again, correlation is not causation.

      August 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Philip

    Seroquel has never been approved by the FDA for the treatment of PTSD, yet seroquel is the most-popularly prescribed drug for PTSD.
    All other factors leading to PTSD (formerly known as Shell Shock and then Battle Fatigue) have remained the same except for the use of weapons that use depleted uranium. (DU Illness)
    As of today, Colin Powell is the only ranking government official to admit that DU Illness even exists. President Obama's official stand is that DU illness does NOT exist. (so we know Seroquel isn't being prescribed for DU Illness by military MDs and the 6,000 prescription writers hired by the VA, 1,900 more hired this year)

    August 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David44316

    It could have been the Ambien. I'm a 50 yr old succesful corporate lawyer and have never been depressed or had suicidal thoughts until I took Ambien for about 10 days last year for insomnia. I immediately began having depressed moods and suicidal thoughts. Fortunately (for me, at least) I recognized what was happening and discontinued the Ambien and the depression/suicidal thoughts went away.

    August 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Ambien is known for that...I am glad you were cognizant of what you were experiencing and stopped taking it, David44316.

      August 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Former Ambien User

      I, too, was prescribed Ambien as a sleep aid and began having deep depression and suicidal thoughts. I did not know what was wrong with me. Finally I researched it online and sure enough, it is even printed on the side of the bottle. My doctor never warned me. I stopped taking Ambien and the suicidal thoughts went away. I flushed the rest of that crap down the toilet along with the prescription. Ambien = BAD. It should be taken off the market. I feel very strongly that is what happened to this guy.

      August 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • edocol

      Right, so you didn't bother reading the warnings that come with every prescription, and just blamed your doctor? And then instead of properly disposing of the unwanted medication, you flushed it so that it would eventually reach the ocean? Nice work fool.

      August 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Keith

    "No apparent signs of damage" is not the same as no signs of CTE. As Realist points out, people take their lives for lots of reasons but nothing wrong with ruling out CTE first given the nature and length of his career.

    August 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • selectrictypeorchestra

      It doesn't say "no damage." It says "no pre-existing natural disease." Think Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. The damage and pathology of TBI are present, according to the article.

      August 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Davidpur

    Maybe someone threatened to out him.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bonita

    Honestly I feel really bad for him and his family. I wish he would have called someone or just waited. Things usuall get better. May GOD be with him and his family.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buck

      "He committed suicide. God is not with him." Only a misguided idi0t would believe that.

      August 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. robert

    All i know is that he was a good friend and fellow waterman...Aloha Junior!! u are missed in the line up
    '

    August 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tcaros

    Folks the kinda people who play NFL football are egomaniacs. When the music ends they have a hard time coping with being an average Joe... even with millions in the bank they get bored.

    August 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Concerned

    I believe that normally they do not do this type of test in an autopsy. Were they looking for it at the request of attorneys to file a possible law suit. If that is the case then someone was ;looking for some money. Sad. I really enjoyed watching him play.

    August 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ManTex

    Depression kills. Looks like it killed him.

    August 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Keith

    Whoa, this is just poor, misleading, lazy journalism. No kidding there was no sign of CTE, as Boston University has not studied his brain extensively enough as of yet. (Hell, they probably do not even have it yet.) These were just the San Diego County medical examiner results, which it appears you failed to mention. Do a little more research before writing something as ignorant as this please.

    August 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • AgathaX

      They were reporting the coroner's report. That was fine. The problem came when they segued into, "Duerson was found to have dense clusters of tau protein permeating his brain and spinal cord." Did the coroner find that Duerson had dense clusters of tau protein permeating his brain and spinal cord? We don't know because the reporter did that thing no decent reporter would ever do: he used passive voice. Perhaps Duerson's coroner also found no apparent damage. Or maybe he didn't. We'll have to care enough to go find out ourselves. Not sure I'm there. If the research folks find anything, it will be reported.

      August 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
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