Last year, former NFL veteran linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide. Just recently, his brain was examined and found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition brought on by repeated damage to the brain.
Seau is far from the first football player to be diagnosed with CTE after committing suicide. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that his brain would show signs of CTE, just by the pattern his story follows, and the number of years he spent in the NFL.
According to a report by the University of Michigan, where 34 former NFL player’s brains were studied, 90 percent were found to have CTE.
Dr. Jaime Levine told ABC News, he believes the number of players showing signs of brain damage and CTE is because, “Despite improvements in technology and equipment and modifications to rules in the game on both the pro and amateur level, there’s just a rougher style of play now than in the past.”
It’s possible he is right. Players are now much larger than they were thirty years ago. “Size and physical conditioning techniques in sports at all levels have evolved to create an intense athlete,” said Dr. Levine, the medical director of brain injury rehabilitation with the Rusk Institute in New York.
There is also a known phenomena where the addition of pads has actually caused more injuries. When players believe they are protected from harm by a large number of pads, they are less likely to hold-back, even subconsciously. When you have men of this size using their absolute full reserves to hit another man, a lot of damage can be done.
There is still much to learn, but Seau’s brain will become a part in the research to understand brain injury. Sadly, there will likely be more stories like his in the future.