From the moment it was known that Junior Seau had been found dead two days ago with a gunshot wound to the chest, there's been speculation that not only was it a suicide but that Seau killed himself in such a way that it would allows researchers to study his brain for the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease which appears to affect former NFL players at an incredible rate.
Unlike former Bears safety Dave Duerson, who committed suicide 15 months ago, Seau didn't leave any kind of note, but his family has nonetheless decided to donate his brain to science, in the hopes that a closer, expert examination will help shed more insights into the link between CTE and high-contact sports. Chargers team chaplain Shawn Mitchell made the announcement on behalf of the Seau family last night:
"The family was considering this almost from the beginning, but they didn't want to make any emotional decisions," Mitchell told The Times on Thursday night. "And when they came to a joint decision that absolutely this was the best thing, it was a natural occurrence for the Seau family to go forward."
Mitchell said the family came to the decision to allow Seau's brain to be studied "to help other individuals down the road."
It hasn't been firmly decided where his brain will go, but Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy is the most obvious candidate. To date, 19 brains of former NFL players have been sent there for examination, and 18 have turned up evidence of CTE. It'll likely be several weeks or months until we know more regarding Seau's condition at the time of the death.