California football fans continue to mourn and fondly remember Oceanside football hero and former San Diego Charger Junior Seau, who died last week of an apparent suicide. In the midst of grief, many are up in arms because Seau's death seems to follow a pattern of suicides by other NFL players who suffered repeated brain injuries.
Seau's death brings more attention to a growing concern over the long-term effects of repeated brain injury in sports such as football and boxing. Researchers say repeated brain trauma impacts memory, thinking and reasoning and control of emotions, which can lead to chronic problems such as depression, violent and erratic behavior, dementia and even death.
Just last year, NFL player Dave Duerson committed suicide after making sure his brain would be donated to science to be studied to uncover the long-term effects of repeated brain injuries, called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
There is much speculation that Seau may have shot himself in the chest so that his brain also could be studied, though his intentions are unclear because he left no written instructions. It's reported that Seau's family is currently considering and is likely to donate his brain to science for further study.
As with any injury that is suffered during a sport or other activity, there is always the question about whether more could have been done to prevent serious trauma like brain injuries. In these types of cases of serious injury, not only is a person's physical life impacted but also his or her emotional and social lives.
We must consider that these athletes willingly participate in a dangerous sport with a high potential for serious injury. However, it is also very important for athletes to fully understand the risks they face so they can make informed and confident decisions every time they step on the field or court.
Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Junior Seau: Apparent suicide follows deaths of athletes with brain trauma," Amina Khan, May 2, 2012