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Report: Junior Seau Suffered From Brain Disease Linked To Head Trauma

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Athlete Junior Seau in Malibu, California on July 24, 2009. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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A team of scientists at the National Institutes for Health studying the brain of NFL star Junior Seau concluded that he suffered from a debilitating brain disease that is caused by repeated hits to the head.

Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest this May. At the time of his death, there was speculation that Seau suffered from mental health problems related to his two decades in the NFL. His family decided to donate his brain to the NIH, where they are conducting research on traumatic brain injury and football players.

A team of researchers—who did not realize whose brain they were studying—concluded that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease caused by multiple hits to the head, according to ABC News.

Patients can only be diagnosed with CTE after death, but they may display symptoms including impulsivity, forgetfulness and depression, and they may consider suicide. The New York Times notes that CTE has been found in every former NFL player whose brain was examined posthumously—more than 30. That includes former Eagles defensive back Andre Waters after his suicide in 2006. 4,000 retired players have filed suits against the league for allegedly not protecting its players from brain injuries.

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Gina Seau told ABC that she and her ex-husband expected physical injuries from playing professional football, but not the mental health issues that made life so difficult for Junior Seau: "He was a warrior and he loved the game. But ... I know that he didn't love the end of his life."