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. First Hand Witness

    I knew he was a gambler......might have had serious money troubles?

    August 24, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Gail

    It's the lawsuits that are ridiculous. A player chooses football as a career – it has risk. It's a choice. Next drivers will be suing NASCAR for injuries while driving. Hell, I commute on the some of the most dangerous interstates around – should I be allowed to sue my company because of an accident on the way to work?

    August 24, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • neuron2003

      The dirty little secret is that 80% of the NFL players tested so far are faking their memory complaints.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. kec2277

    Hello....doesnt anyone see that this guy was on Ambien...there is an increased risk of suicidal thoughts/suicide with this horrible pill....I was on it for 3-4 days and took myself off of it because it messed up my head....I think everyone should be looking at the pharmaceutical compay not his head injuries he sustained as an NFL player.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. neuron2003

    Good thing his brain was sent to the NIH instead of Boston. Cantu and MciKee would have raised their claim to 19 of 20. I see dozens of high school kids each year who are terrified (or their parents) that they will have "CTE" because of the mildest of bangs to the head because of all the publicity created by Cantu et al. Yes, it should be on the front page, and kudos to CNN for writing a story that someone does NOT have a neuromythological disorder.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  5. BurstBubble

    Well, I for one would like the Boston University that studies CTE to review Seau's brain. If it wasn't CTE, then I would believe it was just old fashion "depression" that consumed him. A san person whose depressed can start thinking thoughts about killing themselves. If it goes on long enough they see it as a positive solution. So sorry for his family and their lose. May they find peace....

    August 24, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. beer immediately

    This was simply a glory hound who didn't know what to do with himself after he could no longer play football. I feel for his family and children, but he is no martyr

    August 24, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • harriet

      @beer immediately
      Wow; judgmental much? Sounds like you are jealous of his life, and that is sad considering he was so troubled he took his!

      August 24, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Southern mom

      Shot himself in the chest? isn't that unusual site for a suicide? Could this be a homicide covered up? Just doesn't ring self inflicted to me. Was girlfriend an associate of Peterson?

      August 26, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarkazma

      The fact remains that no matter how many of these studies are done, there is no shortage of players signing up to have their heads bashed in for millions of dollars. Money is more important, and then, when that's gone and no one will pay them millions anymore to throw a ball around, and they can't do anything else to make that kind of money, we're supposed to feel sorry for them? Forget it . . .the risks are known and have been for a long time; if you choose to risk your health to make millions, you get zero sympathy from this camp. And no, I'm not jealous at all . . I'm still alive and I KNOW money isn't the answer to everything

      August 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Peter

    All major sport in America get involved with dirty $$$ and the "Dark Side" power took over those athletics even their life

    August 24, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bianca

    This article scares me...my daughter has been married to an ex NFL 49er player after 19 years of a beautiful marriage the pain medication wasn't enough, he started buying it of the streets of Atlanta and the last four years have been horrible. Police involment and separation, unpaid bills, lost their home on and on. My grandchildren will be the ones suffering. He now has become a man we don't know, hostil, controlling, threatening and more. He has been in car accidents thank goodness not with his family. My daughter tried everything to help him but to no avail. It's a nightmare!

    August 24, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  9. Perspective

    No apparent damage. Except for the part that thought it was a good idea to point a shotgun at his own chest and pull the trigger.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Educator

      Learn to read before you open your mouth and prove yourself the fool.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. whatev

    There goes the lawsuit. The family will have to find some other way to capitalize on his death.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ferrell Aepps

    autopsy reveals that Seau was just congenitally stupid and suffered in a prima donna's prison

    August 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yo Mammy

      Dang.

      August 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BobBaft

    So Obama's mother's name was Perdition?

    August 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lila

    Ambien could have pushed him over the edge. It can give suicidal thoughts. It did to me, so I stopped taking it.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nurse Ratchett

      Were you taking the whole bottle?

      August 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Francesca

      I was just coming here to suggest Ambien, which can have very dangerous side effects, and no, one doesn't have to take the whole bottle.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • SA

      Could also be that he'd totally f'd up his life after football and decided to end it.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cindy

    This is football season, and the NFL do not care. The bottom lin is money.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bruce Gregory

    So sad. He had so much to live for. Depression can be so insidious. I hope all of us will remember there is someone out there ready to give us a hug when needed.

    August 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
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