When he ended his life last year by shooting himself in the chest, Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health said Thursday the former NFL star’s abnormalities are consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
The hard-hitting linebacker played for 20 NFL seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May, and his family requested the analysis of his brain.
“We saw changes in his behavior and things that didn’t add up with him,” his ex-wife, Gina Seau, told the Associated Press.
“But [CTE] was not something we considered or even were aware of. But pretty immediately [after the suicide] doctors were trying to get their hands on Junior’s brain to examine it.”
The NIH, based in Bethesda, Md., studied three unidentified brains, one of which was Seau’s, and said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people “with exposure to repetitive head injuries.”
“It was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth,” Gina Seau added, “and now that it has been conclusively determined from every expert that he had obviously had CTE, we just hope it is taken more seriously.
‘‘You can’t deny it exists, and it is hard to deny there is a link between head trauma and CTE. There’s such strong evidence correlating head trauma and collisions and CTE.”
In the final years of his life, Seau had wild behavioral swings, according to Gina and to 23-year-old son, Tyler Seau, along with signs of irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.
“He emotionally detached himself and would kind of ‘go away’ for a little bit,” Tyler Seau said. “And then the depression and things like that. It started to progressively get worse.”
He hid it well in public, they said, but not when he was with family or close friends.
Seau joins a list of several dozen football players who were found to have CTE. Boston University’s center for study of the disease reported last month that 34 former pro players and nine who played only college football suffered from CTE.
Jaguars fire Mularkey
The more Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan watched his team play, the more he realized one thing:
“We needed a rebuild from the ground up,” Khan said.
So the Jaguars fired coach Mike Mularkey on Thursday after just one season, the worst in franchise history. The move came 10 days after Khan fired Gene Smith as general manager.
Mularkey, who went 2-14 this season, became the eighth head coach fired since the end of the regular season. He looked like he would be one and done when Khan parted ways with Smith last week and gave Mularkey’s assistants permission to seek other jobs.
Around the league
Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is the latest to interview for the vacant coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals. … Lovie Smith interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles as the team continued its search to replace Andy Reid, who was fired after a 4-12 finish. … Mike Pettine was hired as the Buffalo Bills new defensive coordinator, and Nathaniel Hackett will be running the offense as part of newly hired coach Doug Marrone’s staff. … Rookie running back Chris Rainey was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the troubled 24-year-old was arrested on a battery charge in Gainesville, Fla. … Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway was added to the NFC Pro Bowl team as an injury replacement for DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys. … 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh announced that 15-year veteran David Akers is keeping his job as San Francisco’s starting kicker. For now, anyway.