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Ex-NFL's Brain Tissue Sent For Study As Injury Concerns Grow

Craig McClellan

Amid increasing scrutiny of the long term effects of football injuries, the National Institutes of Health will study the brain tissue of former San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau.

The NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which researches traumatic brain injury, agreed to analyze the tissue at the request of Seau's family. Seau died in May at age 46. The NIH said it would not discuss the tissue or the results of its analysis, citing the family's need for privacy.

As we blogged in June, Seau was the third former NFL player to commit suicide in recent years after exhibiting symptoms of brain damage. At that time, Seau's family was still deciding whether to donate his brain for research. The other players, former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson and Atlanta Falcons player Ray Easterlin, both believed they had long-term brain damage as a result of their football careers. Duerson left a note asking for his brain to be studied.

Duerson's and Easterlin's families both filed wrongful death suits against the NFL. They are among more than 2,000 former players and family members who have filed suits accusing the NFL of deliberately concealing the potential for long-term brain damage from the blows to the head many players suffered. Many suits have been consolidated into one.

The NFL denies the allegations. It says player safety has long been a priority. In recent years the league has begun punishing hits to the head more severely and strengthened bans on using helmets as weapons.

In January, a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published a study that showed retired NFL players had a lower rate of suicide than other members of the public.

Source: Chicago Tribune, " Brain tissue from former NFL star Seau to be studied for damage," Dan Whitcomb, July 12, 2012.