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Yesterday’s suicide of football great Junior Seau has experts one again questioning whether there is a link between link between brain injury or head trauma and mental illness and suicide.
ABC News reports:
Several former NFL players have committed suicide in recent years, and many experts believe the deaths could be related to repeated blows to the head. In addition to Dave Duerson, ex-Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Terry Long and Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters took their own lives. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative and progressive disease found in people who have experienced multiple blows to the head, has shown up in the brains of several former athletes who committed suicide, including Duerson.
Seau’s girlfriend found him yesterday in a pool of blood, with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
Researchers believe that head trauma, particularly chronic blows to the head, like those suffered routinely by football players, can have longterm consequences.
“Exactly how the brain damage causes mood disturbance is not clear,” said Dr. John Whyte, director of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute in Philadelphia, who does not know Seau’s medical history. “There could be biological changes going on, or changes in the neurotransmitters that affect mood, or it could be a psychological factor that this brain injury has disrupted work and family life so much that it has really changed your life.”
The problem of concussions in contact sports is troubling. And it’s not just something that professional athletes have to worry about. As we blogged about last week, new research from UNC shows an increase in head injuries and catastrophic brain injury among high school players. This is clearly an area that needs more study, and more needs to be done to prevent these types of brain injuries because the consequences could prove fatal, even years later.