SAN DIEGO - Brain tissue from deceased NFL star Junior Seau has been sent to the National Institutes of Health for study to determine whether his brain suffered damage from his football career, the San Diego County medical examiner said Thursday.
The medical examiner provided no further details.
Seau, 43, died in May of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest. He was found by his live-in girlfriend in their Oceanside home. He did not leave a suicide note.
There are similarities between the deaths of Seau and former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest last year. In a suicide note, Duerson had asked his family to donate his brain to the Boston University School of Medicine.
Researchers from that school later determined Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions, and that played a role in triggering his depression.
Dr. David A. Hovda, director of the Brain Research Center at UCLA, said the link between brain injuries and depression has been known for years.
"When it happens to a person that I feel pretty confident has been exposed to repeat concussions, my first thought was, did somebody do what they could to make sure this individual knew what his exposure was in terms of concussions, what the cost was going to be after he finished his career, and what he should look out for?" he said in May. "Was the family notified? And did he get help if he needed it?"
In a prepared statement, the NIH acknowledged the transfer of the one- time star linebacker's remains.
"The National Institutes of Health ... is not directly involved in an analysis of (Seau's) cause of death, but physicians at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke conduct research on traumatic brain injury and have agreed to carry out an analysis of the autopsied tissue,'' the agency stated. "In order to protect Mr. Seau's children's right to privacy, NIH will not discuss the status of the tissue or any subsequent findings.''
Considered one of the best linebackers ever, Seau was chosen to play in 12 consecutive Pro Bowls as a Charger.