Seau's death could be related to head trauma
Published Thursday, May 3, 2012 9:45AM EDT
A lawyer representing former NFL players in a concussion lawsuit called the suicide death of former star linebacker Junior Seau a "shocking tragedy" and said it's another reason for the case to proceed.
Sol Weiss said he hopes Seau's death isn't related to head trauma he may have received during his 20-year career, but he said it's possible.
"It's a very serious disease and the players really didn't know much about it when they were playing football," he told CTV's Canada AM Thursday from Philadelphia.
Seau, 43, was found dead in his Oceanside, Calif. home Wednesday from an apparent gunshot wound to his chest in what police have ruled a suicide.
The superstar linebacker was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1990 and led the team to its only Super Bowl appearance following the 1994 season.
Seau remained with the Chargers until 2003 and went on to play with the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots before retiring after the 2009 season.
His death follows another suicide by a former NFL player, Ray Easterling, two weeks ago.
Easterling was a key plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by former players who are seeking health benefits and damages for injuries they say they suffered.
When asked about Seau's death, Easterling's wife, Mary Ann, told Canada AM she's not surprised.
"All of us wives and the children of the players know that they're suffering, we just didn't know what it was they were suffering from," she said in a telephone interview from Richmond, Va.
"It's a puzzling illness because the person's personality changes and you can't explain what is the different between this gregarious person who loves life and was outgoing to everyone, to have switched to being angry, depressed, unable to sleep and impossible to relate to," she said.
Weiss said his client, Easterling, had no idea that a mild, traumatic brain injury could result in the kind of illness that led to his suicide.
"It's shocking is all I can say. It's just a horrible set of circumstances and we need to fix that," he said.
Mary Ann said she had no doubt the lawsuit against the league will go ahead and the deaths only highlight a growing problem.
"I think there are families out there suffering and there are players who are obviously suffering who need help with diagnostics and with medicines," she said.
But she doesn't expect the game of football to change, but said teams, coaches and doctors need to consider a player's health first.
"We attended a (Washington) Red Skins (Philadelphia) Eagles game recently and watched as Michael Vick wobbled off the field and two plays later he was put back in the game and the players themselves cannot make that decision," she said.
"Doctors have to watch the player to make sure that they're ready to go back to play," Mary Ann said.
She understands how hard it is for teams to sit out a star player, or any player for that matter, but it's a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Former CFL star Damon Allen told Canada AM Seau was an "outgoing" person who "loved life" and was involved in the community in San Diego.
He called Seau's death a tragedy and said he hopes the league takes action to help avoid similar deaths in the future.
"And take care of the players and make sure programs are in place to help players make other decisions in life," Allen said in a telephone interview from Toronto.
Seau's death also follows the suicide last year of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest.
Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau's girlfriend reported finding him unconscious and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. A gun was found near Seau's body, McCoy said.
Seau's mother appeared before reporters, weeping uncontrollably Wednesday.
"I don't understand . . . I'm shocked," Luisa Seau cried out.
Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said.
In October 2010, Seau survived a 30-metre plunge down a seaside cliff in his SUV, hours after he was arrested for investigation of domestic violence at the Oceanside home he shared with his girlfriend.
The woman had told authorities that Seau assaulted her during an argument.
There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash and Seau told authorities he fell asleep while driving. He sustained minor injuries.
Seau spent parts of 20 seasons in the NFL, including his 1990-2002 stint with his hometown Chargers. He helped them to their only Super Bowl appearance, was voted to a team-record 12 straight Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro six times.
He amassed 545 tackles, 56 1/2 sacks and 18 interceptions in his career.
"Twenty years, to be part of this kind of fraternity, to be able to go out and play the game that you love, and all the lessons and the friends and acquaintances which you meet along the way, you can't be in a better arena," Seau said last August after the Chargers announced he would be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.
There are more than 1,300 former players who have filed more than 60 lawsuits against the NFL alleging it knowingly ignored the dangers of concussions and failed to warn players of them