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Speculation Arises about the Role of Concussions in Another NFL Player’s Suicide

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Junior Seau, New England Patriots

Credit: JJ Hall/Wikimedia Commons

NFL legend Junior Seau died today after reportedly shooting himself in the chest, according to various news reports.

What prompted the apparent suicide is still unknown. But Seau’s taking of his own life will inevitably raise questions about a possible role of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disorder that results from repeated concussions and that can produce dementia and other forms of cognitive dysfunction.

The NFL has had to contend with a growing incidence of this disorder. Dave Duerson, an NFL safety, committed suicide in 2011 by shooting himself in the chest and directed that his brain be used for research on CTE. Any player in the NFL, and in other contact sports like hockey, probably leaves a long career with some traces of brain injury. But tests will be needed to determine whether Seau merited a clinical diagnosis.

No reports have emerged so far that Seau suffered from dementia-like symptoms. An SUV that Seau was driving in 2010 near his home in Oceanside, Calif., went over a cliff that fronted on a beach, according to The Los Angeles Times.  The incident occurred following his arrest that year related to suspicion of domestic violence.

Seau, a 12-time NFL Pro linebacker following a career as an All-American at University of Southern California, registered 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers, three seasons with the Miami Dolphins and ended his career with the New England Patriots.

See Scientific American’s In-Depth Report—The Science of Concussion and Brain Injury—and the article “The Collision Syndrome” (pay wall) from the February 2012 Scientific American for more on CTE.

Gary Stix About the Author: Gary Stix, a senior editor, commissions, writes, and edits features, news articles and Web blogs for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. His area of coverage is neuroscience. He also has frequently been the issue or section editor for special issues or reports on topics ranging from nanotechnology to obesity. He has worked for more than 20 years at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, following three years as a science journalist at IEEE Spectrum, the flagship publication for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism from New York University. With his wife, Miriam Lacob, he wrote a general primer on technology called Who Gives a Gigabyte? Follow on Twitter @@gstix1.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. ironjustice 9:15 am 05/3/2012

    It has been shown when one has a brain ‘bruise’ , iron spills from the blood which is in the bruise.

    “Head injury or hemorrhagic cortical infarction results in extravasation of blood and breakdown of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Iron liberated from hemoglobin, and hemoglobin itself, are associated with the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS).”

    They have shown iron deposition in the brain causes suicidal depression , reversed by iron reduction , phlebotomy.
    “From a previous study on suicidal depression victims, a clear correlation between iron level and strand breaks in the brain regions could be observed”

    Could the problems presenting in brain injured people be related to the deposition of iron from spilled blood ?
    “Iron, brain and neuropsychiatric problem”
    “Phlebotomy can result in dramatic improvement of neuropsychiatric symptoms”

    Link to this
  2. 2. thermopraxis 1:34 pm 05/18/2012

    There is something that can be done now and your help is needed to spread the word about it. Thermopraxis has created a revolutionary in-helmet device that can be used to drastically reduce the devastating consequences of concussions using therapeutic hypothermia (cooling). The sooner this product reaches the market, the sooner these types of injuries can be reduced in helmet-wearing athletes. For more information, please see the Concussion Crisis Solution Campaign on YouTube and

    Link to this

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