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. AgathaX

    To a significant extent the problem was impulse control and easy access to firearms–almost certainly combined with depression. Mental illness and guns are a really crappy combo. For all the whispers about gun control when where is a dramatic incident like the movie theater shooting in Colorado or any of the others, the most significant result of easy access to firearms numerically is suicide. You have to have a pretty exotic mental illness or disorder to shoot up others. Those with more garden variety mental illness just do themselves in.

    August 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. faye62

    You are ignorant in Biblical knowledge; Sampson committed suicide and prayed for God to help him. God granted his prayer and the whole building came down killing everybody including Sampson. The Bible does not say that suicide is an unforgivable sin; blasphemy is....I am not condoning suicide, I just know the Bible does not support your ignorant statement. Be careful about making thoughtless statement like that before you end up in Hell. If you think crass thoughtless statements are cute, they're not or maybe you can't help yourself b/c you'e one of the third of angels that fell with Satan??????? No matter what, mean people suck.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well, figures.

      Stop play fighting and go outside to get some fresh air.

      August 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Don't sweat it. There is no hell. The only hell is here when I meet people like you. "Ignorant in biblical knowledge" is an oxymoron. The Bible was written by ignorants who attempted to sound knowledgeable. Of course at that time they could because everybody else was a little more ignorant. But what's your excuse today? Of course it's easier to stop thinking and exploring and relying on ONE book for all answers. It's called "comfort in ignorance". If you believe a super human sitting on a cloud created YOU, and is taking notes of your daily deeds than you are as delusional and dangerous as the guys who blow themselves up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      August 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Greg we are the fig tree generation... Jesus talked about that in Matt 25. Everything thats in the bible has happened and is currently happening. You must believe to be saved.“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:”

      This verse of scripture is an enigma to most Christians. They cannot believe that God would send a lie to deceive most of His own called out followers. But that is the truth. These are the plain words of scripture.

      Many Christians delude themselves that this is speaking of the lost world and not the church, the called out of God. But this cannot be the case, because this statement is in the context of widespread apostasy:

      2Th 2:3 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”

      August 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      "Of course at that time they could because everybody else was a little more ignorant. But what's your excuse today?"

      that time? today? God and His word are the same yesterday today and forever.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. salsa72

    Nobody is bringing up steroids and what the long term effects might be. I know quite few guys that are always on the edge and are steroid users.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ezo

      From sideeffectsbase dot com: "The patient may also go through unpleasant side effects if the drug is suddenly stopped after prolonged use. After an addiction develops, side effects of Ambien withdrawal include: shakiness, stomach cramps, nausea, muscle cramps, excessive crying, lightheadedness, mood swings, panic attacks, difficulty falling asleep, a feeling of tiredness, sweating, vomiting, excessive crying and seizures."

      August 22, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. josh rogen

    like so many these days junior had serious money problems, and his personal life was falling apart. he just couldn't face failure or ask for help. blame the Bush /Obama depression if you want, but really there are so many people hurting that it's way past time for blame.

    August 21, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DC Johnny

    In other developments, 100 inner-city teens were polled whether or not they would accept longterm risk of disabilities in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars, and 100 responded "yes" within a second.

    Cry me a river.

    August 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. faye62

    Ummm, with a diagnosis, the family could have made peace with his action. I feel for them; I think suicide is selfish and without a note, it's torture. At the very least, leave a note so that at least your family and friends can find some type of peace. I watched my grandmother go through this torment with my uncle, my girlfriend with her daughter. The pain you felt is transferred to your family; you're out of it and they're in it. It's the silent treatment times a million. They ask "why until they die."

    August 21, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brandon

    Of course his brain is fine, he shot himself in the chest. Quit glorifying the coward.

    August 22, 2012 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
    • BlackDynamite

      Your sorry - shouldn't be calling any football great a coward......

      August 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • jungleboo

      @black: "Your sorry – shouldn't be calling any football great a coward......"" Perhaps FOOL would be a more apt description? Tear the mask off the stupid game and tell it like it is. Men prancing about in tights hurling themselves into one another with such speed and force that the only result describable is pain, disorientation and incapacitation. Oh, and I almost forgot, a little wiener of a football that edges closer to an imaginary goal. And YOU get to jump up and scream because you watched it. Yeah, Seau was a "Football Great". What is that definition again?

      August 23, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      @ jungleboo. I agree with you. This game makes no sense at all. Boxing and MMA are probably less dangerous than "football". And please do this whole planet a favor and change that name. Football is played with your feet not with your hands. And you are absolutely right, where's the glory in knocking out a guy who's jumping in the air to catch a ball and has absolutely no way of defending himself, or flooring a quarterback who's trying to throw the ball and is also defensless. I think the game itself promotes violence and cruelty. In boxing you are hurting a guy who's trying to do the same to you. In "football" your job is to hurt someone who's running away from you. Un-American at best.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |


      August 24, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. Errr...

    The caption for that photo should read:

    "Dang...I just forgot my epiphany"

    August 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cs

    Unfortunately, many out of work individuals who are financially struggling commit suicide, especially if they "had it all".

    There is nothing complicated about his suicide.

    August 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • dasfad

      I have a crazy crazy idea. Never be an option really. But how about GET A JOB!!!!!!!!!!!

      August 23, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Highly Motivated

    He had so much to live for. I don't have half as much but I won't kill myself.

    August 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BlackDynamite

    Uhhhh......why isn't this on the front page of

    They have 20 stories that shouldn't be there. This is a major national story......

    August 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • funkypurplemonkey

      How is the story of a glorified, me-me loudmouth retired NFL player's suicide 'front page news'?

      Man your perception of national headlines is a tad skewed.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. raju

    so nice

    August 23, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. raju

    he was a big man

    August 23, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dynamic

    When we're taught to put so much emphasis on our profession, and that is suddenly gone from our lives, there is a void...

    August 23, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  15. jeff

    it is a fine gam that people choose to play. Seau was good at it.

    He shot himself in the chest so his Mother could have an open casket. That does not square with a brain disease. It squares with open, engaging mind.

    August 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
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