Seau’s Suicide Brings Concussion Debate Into Spotlight

Posted: May 4, 2012 by Kodi in NFL

Why would he want do take his own life? Why would anyone? But why would Junior Seau end everything when he knew his girlfriend would find him within the hour? Has Junior been battling demons? Was this his first suicide attempt? No matter what the answers to these questions are, there is one thing that’s set in stone: Junior Seau January 19 1969 – May 2, 2012

Junior Seau was as much of a warrior as his tribal chief grandfather and he made an impact on and off the field but the entire NFL community was shocked to hear about his death this week. All you need to do is hear the blood curdling screams and hyperventilating deep breaths of Junior Seau’s girlfriend to capture just how devastating the events of May 2nd are. Junior, born Tiaina Baul Seau Jr., was found dead at his home in Oceanside, California (his hometown) from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Seau was just 43 years old when he took his own life and he had been just 3 years from retiring after a 20 year NFL career. Junior played college football at USC and was selected 5th overall in the 1990 Draft by the San Diego Chargers.

Seau was the fist-pumping leader of the Bolts defense leading the franchise to their only Super Bowl appearance in 1994 on the way to winning the AFC Player of the Year award. He appeared in 12 straight Pro Bowl teams from 1991-2002 and played 13 seasons with the Chargers. After an injury riddled season in 2002 the Chargers traded him to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional draft pick. He batted through a torn pectoral muscle and an Achilles tendon injury in 2004 and 2005. During the off-season in 2006 Junior retired after signing a one-day contract with San Diego. Seau pulled a Brett Favre and just 4 days later he came out of retirement to join the New England Patriots in hopes of winning a Super Bowl, he happened to be on that undefeated team that was upset by the Giants in SB XLII.

Seau would play for the Patriots from 2006-2009 before retiring, this time for good and it seemed as if the All-Pro former NFL Linebacker was moving on in life. While in San Diego he started the Junior Seau Foundation, a non-profit he created to help at-risk youth. Their commitment is “to educate and empower young people through the support of child abuse prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, recreational opportunities, anti-juvenile delinquency efforts and complimentary educational programs.”  Seau and his foundation have made a huge difference and the children he has helped were held near and dear to his heart.

Seau had children of his own a daughter and two sons with his wife, Gina Deboer, but his marriage lasted shorter than his tenure as a Charger, they were married in 1991 and divorced by 2002. That is why it was Seau’s new girlfriend, Megan Noderer, who found Seau and made a bone-chilling phone call to 911. For good reason the young lady was distraught and the tape picks up with a dispatcher asking what was going on. Noderer told the 911 dispatcher that her “boyfriend just shot himself” later revealing that the gun was “next to him in the bed” and he had shot himself “in the heart”.

The nearly 8 minute phone call is very powerful and extremely emotional, as you hear this woman trying to move Seau’s dead body from the bed in an attempt to administer CPR. She explained that she had gone to the gym, Junior didn’t want to go, and she was there for just an hour. During that time Junior loaded a handgun, walked into his guest bedroom, placed the barrel of the gun on his chest and pulled the trigger. Suspicion arose in 2010 when Seau was involved in an alleged domestic assault and his car had been driven off a cliff. His SUV dove 100 feet off of the edge of the road and Seau explained that he had fallen asleep, but was this Seau’s first attempt to take his own life?

The charges were eventually dropped and the incident would have never been resurrected but after successfully taking his own life, many are left to wonder. His family said that they had no knowledge of Junior battling depression, but often times those who are in extreme pain are incredible actors. The speculations will travel beyond the individual and people are beginning to wonder about the safety of former NFL Players. That’s because Junior Seau isn’t the only ex-NFL player to commit suicide, actually former Atlanta Falcons DB Ray Easterling took his own life just 11 days before. Former Chicago Bears Safety Dave Duerson also took his own life in 2011 and both Easterling and Duerson had their brains donated the NFL brain bank and took their own lives by shooting themselves in the chest.

The Seau family will be donating Junior’s brain to the NFL bank as well but they are adamant that he was not the victim of a post-concussion syndrome so many other players have battled, winning and in some cases losing. The number of players who have developed, dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and other cognitive issues has risen dramatically and with Seau’s suicide this issue is being brought into the spotlight.  Football is a brutal game, often times its players are referred to as modern-day gladiators, but will the doctors as Boston University discover medical evidence that will cripple the NFL in the future?

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that has been found in multiple former NFL players, actually 18 of the 19 brains in the NFL banks have varying signs of CTE. Someone is more likely to get CTE if they suffer repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions and asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head, but you never see that in the game of football! The trauma causes the progressive degeneration of brain tissue and over varying periods of time, months, years, decades, the person will battle muscle loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, dementia and depression.

I understand that the Seau family has stated that they did not see any evidence of Junior battling depression but something was wrong with him. Healthy people, both physically and mentally, normally do not take their own lives and normally it is seen as that person’s final desperate plea to end their severe battle. There’s a reason Seau took his life and there is a reason that he didn’t blow his brains out, there is a dangerous connection and Junior wants someone to find it. If we are to find out that those who play professional football, or at any level, are at a higher risk for brain trauma and other issues which may also lead to severe depression. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry but a health risk like this may lead to a revolutionary change in America’s most popular game.

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