According to an announcement made by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a thorough autopsy of former NFL star Junior Seau has revealed that the famous linebacker had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a finding supported by the work of five separate neuropathologists.
Seau committed suicide in May of 2012, and his family donated his brain to the National Institutes of Health for study.
What is CTE?
CTE is "a progressive degenerative disease of the brain" that is "associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia," according to the Boston University website.
CTE is characterized by abnormal clusters of the protein tau, which folds into tangles in the brains of patients with brain diseases as well as those who sustain repetitive trauma over time. The location of the abnormal tau clusters is also distinct in CTE.
According to the pathology report on Seau:
"There are clusters of tau immunoreactive neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and neuropil threads in the neocortex, as well as occasional tangles in the subcortical gray matter and brainstem. The superficial location of the NFTs, the perivascular foci, and the tendency for cortical lesions to be at the depths of sulci are consistent with a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy."
CTE a concern for boxers, football players and hockey players
CTE used to be a concern only for boxers, but it became a concern for professional football players following the 2011 suicide of Dave Duerson, who had experienced severe depression and major changes to his personality.
Since then, CTE has become a much larger issue, even reaching into the National Hockey League, as more and more former players' brains are being examined and showing evidence of the tau clusters.
Sources: MedPage Today, Boston University