Last year, former Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest, in a circumstance eerily similar to Junior Seau’s apparent suicide Wednesday.
Duerson made the choice to end his life that way so that scientists could study his brain for trauma.
His suspicions turned out to be valid.
Almost exactly a year ago, researchers confirmed that “his brain had developed the same trauma-induced disease recently found in more than 20 deceased players,” The New York Times reported then.
Seau also died of a gunshot wound to the chest. Police say they are investigating it as a suicide. No reference has yet been made by anyone that he was suffering or suspected he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the condition that is increasingly raising alarms in the sports world.
However, brain trauma has become a major issue for the NFL, and Seau’s death is already causing people to wonder if there’s a connection.
Ray Easterling, a safety for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1970s committed suicide last month. The New York Times wrote that he was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NFL related to its handling of concussions.
In The New Yorker magazine last year, Ben McGrath described the rise to consciousness of this issue and how it was driven by a part-time baseball statistics writer at The New York Times.
The headline was ominous: “Does football have a future?”
Last year, Chargers star guard Kris Dielman suffered a concussion in a game in New York and hours later had a seizure on the team’s flight home. He sat out the rest of the season and recently decided to retire.
“I didn’t want to have problems when I was older. I played a rough style of football. This one got me, and it’s time to move on,” Dielman said at a press conference (as quoted by U-T San Diego).
Seau is the eighth player from the 53-member 1994 Chargers’ Super Bowl team to pass away.
In 2008, the Washington Post did a major story on that team’s “tragic toll.” Back then, the death toll from that team was only five, and it was still an anomaly:
Five men from a 53-player roster, all gone in their 20s and 30s. Marjorie Rosenberg, a professor of actuarial science and biostatistics at the University of Wisconsin, calculated the odds of something like this happening at less than 1 percent.
“I couldn’t imagine one team having five guys from one calendar season just die unless it’s a team crash or something,” (Deems) May said. “I bet you couldn’t find a small business with 53 people and have five people die.”
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