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Former NFL player's brain to be studied for permanent damage

The family of former NFL player Junior Seau has donated his brain to science for study following his death in California last April. The 43-year-old died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. The family would like the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study Seau's brain to see whether his suicide may have had anything to do with deterioration in his brain from his career as a football player for the San Diego Chargers.

More and more scientists have been finding that repeated brain injuries or concussions can lead to long-term cognitive problems. More than 2,000 former NFL players and their wives have filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, accusing the league of knowing that repeated concussions could lead to long-term brain problems, but hiding this information from players. The players now say that they suffer from depression and early-onset dementia.

Two other NFL players committed suicide this year and questions have been raised about whether brain injuries contributed to their death. Last April, Ray Easterling died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; he is also a plaintiff in the class-action. Last February, Dave Duerson also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; he said in a suicide note that he wanted his brain studied after his death.

According to The New York Times, a study done by Boston University at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy found that 18 of 19 former NFL players had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which means the brain deteriorated due to repeated traumatic injuries.

Source: The New York Times, "Seau Brain Tissue Is Donated to National Institute for Study," Mary Pilon, July 12, 2012

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