Seau suffered from disease caused by hits

Media reporting that linebacker had chronic traumatic encephalopathy

Both ESPN and ABC News are reporting this morning (Jan. 10) that former star Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last May, suffered from a debilitating brain disease attributed to 20 years of absorbing hard hits to the head in his National Football League career, according to Talking Points Memo. After some delay, Seau's family had donated sections of his brain to neuroscientists at the National Institutes for Health.

According to ABC News, "A team of independent researchers who did not know they were studying Seau's brain all concluded that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease typically caused by multiple hits to the head."

" What was found in Junior Seau's brain was cellular changes consistent with CTE," said Dr. Russell Lonser, chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University, who led the study of Seau's brain while he was at NIH.

Patients with CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, display symptoms "such as impulsivity, forgetfulness, depression [and] sometimes suicidal ideation," Lonser said.

The report may have legal implications, as the NFL has been hit with lawsuits from former players and their survivors regarding injuries.

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ADDITIONAL NEWS ON SEAU. ESPN is saying this morning that Seau's ex-wife Gina and oldest son Tyler were informed last week that Seau's brain had tested positive for CTE."I think it's important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE," Gina Seau said. "It's important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don't want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes." She said the family was told that the CTE resulted from "a lot of head-to-head collisions over the course of 20 years of playing in the NFL. And that it gradually, you know, developed the deterioration of his brain and his ability to think logically."

CTE, long associated with repeated head trauma, has shown up for years among boxers, but was first tied to football in 2005, according to ESPN.

The National Football League (NFL) in a statement said the National Institute of Health's (NIH), "finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE. The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels." NFL clubs have committed $30 million for a grant to the NIH. Some critics say that is an embarrassingly small amount for a league controlled by billionaires team owners.

More than 4,000 former players are suing the NFL, alleging the league ignored and denied the link between football and brain damage, even after CTE was discovered in former players. The Seau family said it has not yet decided whether to joint the lawsuit, reports ESPN. Gina Seau said that the league was "too slow for us" to address the issue. Some believe the lawsuit, and others, could affect the league's ability to get insurance -- as well as the ability of schools, Pop Warner teams, equipment manufacturers and other football organizations to be insured.

Tyler and Gina both described dramatic changes in Seau later in his life, including mood swings, depression, forgetfulness, insomnia, and detachment, reported ESPN.

Just read the LA Times report, there is a football connection.

SP: I have not seen the LA Times report. At the time I wrote this, I couldn't find that any San Diego publication had posted it. I don't know if the Times had posted it by then (early a.m.) The NIH made clear that this was football related, as I reported. Best, Don Bauder

The report may have legal implications, as the NFL has been hit with lawsuits from former players and their survivors regarding injuries.

Interesting issue

SP: We covered this in some detail at the time of Seau's suicide, and also in the days following it. Best, Don Bauder

It's time to re-engineer the game, from Pop Warner to the NFL. Until that happens, parents need to face the now-documented consequences of allowing their kids to play.

rjriehl: Amen. Football needs a remake -- newly designed equipment, new rules to curb the most vicious hits, stiffer rules against head-to-head hits, etc. And yes, parents should all be warned when their sons play Pop Warner or high school football. Best, Don Bauder

Recently the Mill (either the UT or NCT or both) ran a lengthy feature story on Seau's last weeks or months. Based on revelations from the girlfriend, it seems that Junior was seeing his fortune dwindle fast, and with no way to replenish it, took a bizarre approach. He started casino gambling in Las Vegas with the idea he could be a big net winner. Impulsivity is the least of that delusion! It's simply irrational. Nobody beats the house in Vegas, no matter what the fiction writers would have you believe. So, the faster the money slipped away, the more he gambled and the bigger the bets he placed. THAT would make anyone suicidal I think. But there are plenty of people who think they can beat the house who never had any head injuries, so his downward spiral may have had to do with other factors than CTE. All just a very sad story.

Clarification: That next-to-last sentence should have said the spiral may have had to do with CTE and some other factors. CTE had a big part in it.

Visduh: I would think a gambling spiral in the case of a football player would have had a great deal to do with CTE. Best, Don Bauder

Seau was LOSING MILLIONS at a shot at Vegas, he had made $657 million during his 12 year NFL playing days, with endorsements, and was out of $$$$.

Junior Seau played in the NFL for 20 yrs, not 12. The first 13 were with the Chargers, followed by 3 at Miami and 4 with the New England Patriots.. Most published accounts list his earnings as a player during those years at around the $30 million level. So using your figure, Seau made an additional $627 million or so in endorsements. That seems an unbelievable number to me. Please cite your source.

tomjohnston: Seau had other investments such as the restaurant that closed down not long after his death. Best, Don Bauder

Sorry, I missed typed, his total earning from 20 years-not 12- in NFL and endorsements was $57 million.

SurfPup: $57 million in endorsements is not at the top level, but it is very good. Best, Don Bauder

I think he made about $30 million in endorsements and $30 million in NFL pay. For his star power it seems low. But he was basically broke, out of money as he was dropping over $1 million per visit at Vegas.

SurfPup: It is a truly tragic story. Best, Don Bauder

SP: I thought he played 20 years in the NFL. Whether it was 12 or 20, losing that kind of money is astounding. Best, Don Bauder

Visduh: Gambling addiction is a serious disease here and in other countries. Promoters tout gambling, claiming that part of the returns can be used to build schools. Balderdash. The cost of treating gambling addiction probably wipes out any gain of schools. Best, Don Bauder

Bam! Football takes another hit. The question now is what will come of it? I don't think improved helmet design is going to fix this; and I just don't see the fans showing up to watch a game of "touch."

A couple of big lawsuits are going to alter the landscape to the point where even the big money guys are going to see the game is carrying a higher risk. Or, they could go buy an army of doctors to refute the findings. The ball is still in motion but this could be first down.

Bama! Football takes another hit. The question now is what will come of it?

Football has a net value worth of trillions of $$, the people who run it run our country, nothing will interfere with that cash cow.

SP: It's true that 18 of the 32 NFL owners are billionaires. They are worshipped in the media despite, in many cases, very shady pasts. TV and other media make a bundle on football. Yes, it has a grip. But that grip could possibly be broken. However, it won't be easy. Best, Don Bauder

SP: Pro football certainly has Congress in the palm of its hands. Best, Don Bauder

Big tobacco, seen as invincible for a long time, hired physicians to attempt to refute the evidence that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer and later on, a host of other diseases. It commissioned costly research work at universities to attempt to refute the health hazards. But no amount of denial on the part of those corporations could indefinitely stave off the day of reckoning. If football wants to do down that road, it will have millions of people in denial who will support it. So, the resolution of this may take decades, but it will come. It doesn't take a genius to see that the game is extraordinarily hard on a human body, and gets progressively more damaging as the players get bigger and older. By their 20's these guys are at a peak of their strength and speed, yet three hundred pounders are commonplace in the college and NFL ranks. Two or three or four fast-moving guys of that mass cannot collide without trauma. It is really as simple as that.

Visduh: All you have to do is watch a game to see that everything you say is true. The hits are simply vicious. And the announcers celebrate the vicious hits, often as the hit is replayed for the TV audience. Football has a very tenacious grasp on our society. This is going to take awhile. Best, Don Bauder

JavaJoe: Seau had a very big name. This finding will stimulate much more discussion and cogitation on the worth of football. Impossible? Just remember: 50 years ago, almost everyone knew who the heavyweight champion of the world was. Now few do. Boxing is fading fast. Best, Don Bauder

I hear what you are saying, Don (and others). Football is big, big, BIG in the U.S.. It is hard to believe it would change just because of a few brain-injury related deaths, but as Visduh points out, look at the changes tobacco went through once the connections were indisputable. I think something needs to be done but I'm not optimistic. The first time I saw a mixed martial arts fight on TV I thought sure that would be outlawed and yet, it is now bigger than ever. I guess here in the US, just because something is dangerous, vicious, deadly, and repugnant, doesn't mean it won't get bigger and more succe$$ful. viva Amerika. And don't forget the Gun Show is coming to Del Mar!

JavaJoe: Unfortunately, violence is a huge part of our culture, and so is greed. The two are related. Too many get rich off football and other violent sports. Too many get rich off guns and TV violence, too. Best, Don Bauder

finally the truth and isn't it so very very sad

Nan: I think the truth is very, very sad, but perhaps there is hope. Best, Don Bauder

Steroids and other PED's are part of the problem too. Look at how the sizes and speeds of players have changed over the years.

There's a difference between being tackled by a 300 lb guy who can run a 4.5 40yd dash vs. being tackled by a 250 lb guy who runs a 5 40 yd dash. Impacts are harder now.

ImJustABill: Absolutely. The players bulk up in the weightlifting room (and also on steroids). Even college teams have offensive lines averaging more than 300 pounds. And they are just as fast as the 250-pound lineman of 30 or 50 years ago. Best, Don Bauder

This is a pretty good article on Seau from a few months ago. I can say at the time,it certainly opened my eyes quite a bit. Despite the fact it is from the UT, I would recommend everyone read it if they already haven't:

tomjohnston: Yes, that is a good article. Best, Don Bauder

That is the article I read and got my info from

Still, in 2006, according to Seau’s pleadings in the divorce, he had a stock portfolio of $7,699,000, and monthly expenses of $34,063, or about $400,000 a year. According to court filings, he still had nearly $5 million in investments a few years later. Not much for a superstar whose NFL contracts alone may have been worth more than $57 million, but still a comfortable cushion.

Friends estimated that a bad investment in Ruby Tuesday franchises was costing him $60,000 to $70,000 a month after his retirement.

In 2011, Seau took a $1.2 million loan against the value of his Oceanside house, which he had purchased for $3.2 million in cash in 2005.

Average bet: $38,800

Amid all of his mounting financial pressures, Seau began gambling heavily using lines of credit, or “markers,” at Las Vegas casinos, including Bellagio and Caesars Palace.

According to a source with MGM International, owner of Bellagio, over the course of his gambling lifetime, Seau had a net buy-in of $6.8 million for all of the MGM International properties — $4.1 million of which came from markers. The MGM International source said that by the end of November 2010, Seau owed $1.3 million in markers to Bellagio ($500,000) and Caesars Palace ($800,000). His average bet at Bellagio was $38,800.“You can’t gamble to make money,” that source said. “You need to be super smart, and even those people can’t always beat the system. Anybody who said Junior didn’t have a gambling problem, that he was gambling to make money, is out of their minds. He was borrowing money — hundreds of thousands of dollars — and then he was owing it to the casino.

SurfPup: Sounds like a combination of drug, alcohol and gambling addictions. Just pathetic. Who was Seau's financial advisor? Did the advisor put him in Ruby Tuesday franchises (a truly lousy idea)? Seau's restaurant? What stocks was Seau in? Did he get caught in the tech crash? We must know who the advisor or advisors were. That is a very important bit of information. I do know of one advisor he was mixed up with, but I don't believe that person, who went to prison, was Seau's financial advisor. Best, Don Bauder

The Ruby Tuesday deal is shocking. No person with any common sense would be bleeding that kind of money on a monthly basis. He should have had 50% minimum, if not 90%, in a diversified index fund. He doesn't know how to invest, and he showed his ignorance with that Ruby Tuesday scam. I worked for the largest restaurant vendor in the country 30 years ago, and it is a business that requires massive hours, extreme attention to details and prices for product, and a million other things that are many times beyond the restaurants control. He had some serious personal issues, and the brain damage was the most likely cause.

SP: I have seen several cases like this. Sometimes, a greedy advisor puts the athlete in bad investments and rakes money off the top. Or the advisor puts the athletes in investments that result in huge commissions for the advisor. Nobody says, "Put some of the money in an S&P index fund and some in Treasury bonds or high quality municipal bonds. Save your money because you will need it when you retire." Best, Don Bauder

SurfPup: Rich young athletes who suddenly become filthy rich are prey for con artists. Best, Don Bauder

Brain health should be the top priority of all intelligent people. That should be the focus of this and all other discussions on this subject.

However, regarding this case:

  1. Modern helmets protect against skull fractures, and that makes harder-hitting possible.

  2. Harder hitting causes the entire brain to slap hard enough against the cranial wall to cause brain injury.

  3. Given this knowledge, intelligent people will avoid those circumstances, and will not support anything or entity that creates those circumstances.

All sorts of brain injury have long demonstrated that behavior is affected, and "criminal minds" are likely to be the result of brain injury or developmental abnormalities.

Diseases and drugs can do the same thing. I almost jumped off a third-story balcony after taking a prescription drug, and at least one man is rotting in prison from taking the same drug (his drug defense failed), because he killed his best friend while under its influence. Judging from what the drug did to me, I believe I could have done almost anything (mass murder--who knows?) under its influence. Not being able to control my mind and behavior was very frightening. I believe the drug is still being prescribed. When I reported the effects to my physician, he told me not to take it anymore--nothing else. No reporting, no scientific curiosity, no collection of clinical data. This is US medicine. It would have been reported to a central database in China, even then (the 1980's). Controlling Big Pharma might be more important than controlling guns.

Can intelligent people really believe that such insane acts are caused only by a lack of, say, "moral compass?" I wonder what kind of brain damage might cause us to focus only upon revenge, without giving consideration to the causes of such abnormal behavior?

Twister: There are many who argue that modern helmets simply permit the players to hit each other harder. There has to be a lot of research in this area. Best, Don Bauder

The helmets are padded on the inside only, the outside of the helmet is rock hard. The pads and helmets must be redesigned to protect the ball carrier as well as the tackler. Football can be safer.

Helmets like that would not get the TV ratings-AKA $$$$. And THAT is the #1 factor for the NFL owners.

SurfPup: Touch or flag football wouldn't bring in fans. They want violence! Best, Don Bauder

Psycholizard: Even if helmets, pads, etc. are made safer, there are still players weighing 340 pounds with the speed of a running back, crashing into other players. Best, Don Bauder

I watched a short period of the Baltimore Denver game yesterday and saw a 320# defensive lineman run at an amazing speed, and actually catch Denver QB Peyton Manning. I was shocked at how fast he was. Even the BEST NFL lineman 20 years ago could have never been in the kind of condition this guy was. The athletes today are in tremendous condition.

SurfPup: I worry about another possible health problem after those 320-pound linemen retire: strain on the heart. There probably aren't statistics on this, because the 300-pound+ linemen are a recent phenomena and few have been retired long enough to provide a statistical base. Best, Don Bauder

Another question is how they can be so big and so fast. Today Lance Armstrong is reportedly coming clean and admitting that he doped himself for years. Up to now he's consistently denied it and even has won lawsuits against media that have claimed he doped. His use of banned substances was very sophisticated, and he almost managed to get away with it, as did a few baseball players, including McGuire. So, is it possible that, in spite of all the testing they claim to do, those NFL players are running on 'roids?

Vis, virtually ALL the top cyclists use blood doping, EP0 and the like; they could not compete at that level if they didn't, you HAVE to use if you want to compete.

Same with bodybuilding, the top bodybuilders at virtually EVERY LEVEL, including local, use drugs, and if they didn't they would not place in the top 25.

Visduh: Apparently, Armstrong admitted his past use of performance enhancing drugs because he wants to get back in bike racing. But how about all those lies he told through the years, including in court? Best, Don Bauder

Don Bauder, Not bike racing, he's done an Elvis in that sport, He wants to be able return to competition in the elite triathlon or running events he started participated in after he quit cycling. His appearance on Oprah is all about money. Her network is circling the drain even those she has reportedly dropped a few HUNDRED of her millions into it.She's banking on gaining viewers with Armstrong and I'm sure she paid him a boatload to appear. And Armstrong needs triathlons as a source of income. Some stories speculate he could lose more than half of his $100 worth just paying back USPS alone. And we all know how hard it is to live on just a paultry $50 million.

Spectator sports are for sissies who just want to watch. Any known act that causes death is murder, regardless of how long it takes for the victim to stop breathing terminally.

Twister: Yes, I have always argued that a real macho sport is birdwatching. Those folks climb mountains, plunge through briar, risk running into bears and mountain lions, etc. But the couch potatoes just sit there drinking beer, eating potato chips, and getting fat. Yet the public considers them macho. Best, Don Bauder

Piedmont High School in Oakland had a bird calling contest that received national attention, including annual appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.....and the football players always participated. Interesting facts. Don't know if they still have it.

More evidence of professional sports' negative effects on the USA. Yet our high schools and colleges still celebrate athletics over scholarship.

This is criminal. The owners of the teams, who regularly bilk cities out of hundreds of millions of tax dollars, should be forced to account for the damage they do to their employees.

Nobody can simultaneously claim to be a football fan and a moral human being. If you enjoy violent blood sports you cannot call yourself "Christian". Yet there is no sport that is more closely associated with Christianity than football...


My son will NEVER play football or any other violent contact sport. Any father who would encourage his son to play football deserves to be kicked in the head until he develops CTE.

Fred: People are talking about how the lawsuits and lack of insurance coverage will dent or destroy the NFL, as well as Pop Warner, high school and college football (over a very long period of time, course.) But you put your finger on it: if parents rebelled, refusing to let their sons play football at any level, the sport could get what it deserves. Best, Don Bauder

People are talking about how the lawsuits and lack of insurance coverage will dent or destroy the NFL...

NO lawsuit will touch the NFL.

The NFL OWN the courts, because they OWN the Congress that appoints judges to the courts. Their judges will rule in the way the owners want them to rule, just as the judiciary has become a rubber stamp for unjust laws that have driven the middle class to near extinction.

SP: You make a very good point. Congress and the courts are in the NFL's pocket. But there is always hope. Best, Don Bauder

There is another overlooked aspect to football, especially pro football. That's the amount of time and energy that fans put into things like pools and illegal wagering. Years ago I remember the time wasted in our office every week during the NFL season on the pool and all the talking about the upcoming week's games, followed by a post mortem on the prior week. Oh, it was entertaining for those who chose to participate I suppose, but many would get really upset when they didn't win, and more than just a few would complain that the pool was "fixed", yet the following week were putting their $5 into the pool again. All that productivity that was lost every year cost the company hundreds of thousands in bottom-line profit every year I'd estimate.

Visduh: In 2011, more than $1.3 billion was spent on football gambling in Vegas. This was LEGAL gambling. Probably several times that was spent on ILLEGAL football gambling. Gambling addiction is a social problem. It doesn't afflict only Wall Street. It's everywhere. Best, Don Bauder

Football might not be made safe, but it can be made safer, like auto racing in the seventies. Safety can be improved without stopping the spectacle. Rugby certainly seems more violent, but in fact seems to have less long term problems

Psycholizard: Yes, auto racing was made less dangerous -- notice I didn't say "safer" -- and didn't lose audience. Best, Don Bauder

What we have here is sympathetic magic on steroids, as it were, a fantasy to compensate for inadequacy. "Fan" is short for "fanatic."

Twister: You no doubt notice that in elections on a massive subsidy to build a stadium or ballpark, the team owner usually gets the backing of local politicians. The fanatic team supporters are major reasons. These are people whose whole lives revolve around the local pro team. They turn out for votes in extraordinary numbers, make lots of noise, and donate money to the cause. Politicians know this. Best, Don Bauder

Yes. Very well and simply put. While too many "thoughtful" people sit on their asses and do nothing.

Twister: Those purportedly thoughtful people may be sitting on their rear ends, but are NOT sitting on their wallets. Those wallets get picked by the fanatics and billionaire team owners, working together. Best, Don Bauder

Twister, unfortunately when we thoughtful people do stand up we get death threats or worse...maybe someday the fanatics will come to their senses and realize how they're being used, but until then it's quite dangerous politically and personally to oppose the pro-sports thugs.

Fred: Those who oppose both the gun nuts and the pro sports nuts are definitely targets. Best, Don Bauder

In the mid 20th century, a town in Colorado was suffering from a rash of gang-beatings of elderly people, some of them fatal. If I recall correctly it was Colorado Springs.

A well-dressed elderly gentleman was walking down the sidewalk when a car drove very slowly past him, its five young occupants grinning at him as they did so. They turned at the next street, blocking the sidewalk, and slowly got out of the car and started walking slowly toward the elderly gentleman, unlimbering their weapons, including tire-irons, short lengths of logging chain, battery cables, etc.

As the youths approached, still grinning, to within about thirty feet of the old man, he said, "Boys, I would, if I were y'all, stop, turn around, get back into your car, and go on about your business."

"And what are YOU gonna DO about it, old man?"

The old man pulled out a Colt single-action revolver, and calmly shot four of them dead. The other obeyed the old man's suggestion and ran for the car, burning rubber as he left.

The old man holstered his Colt, and continued his walk.

The attacks stopped.

Twister: I have never read about a Colorado town suffering from a rash of gang-beatings of the elderly. Nor have I heard about the incident you cite. I will have to see if I can look this up. Some Colorado towns are quite wild, and have been since mining days in the 19th century. Colorado Springs is now a haven for evangelistic Christian groups such as Young Life and Focus on the Family. Best, Don Bauder

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