Football and brain damage: More evidence emerges

Samara Freemark
Reporter
Public Insight Network
New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau watches as his team warms up before a game against the Indianapolis Colts in November 2009. (Photo by Getty Images)

New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau watches as his team warms up before a game against the Indianapolis Colts in November 2009. (Photo by Getty Images)

When we started reporting on concussions and brain damage in the summer of 2012, it was hard to avoid stories about Junior Seau, the immensely talented All-American linebacker who played twenty seasons in the NFL and took his own life last May. Almost immediately after his death the speculation began: Had the two decades Seau spent on the football field contributed to the kind of long-term, devastating brain injuries that have been tied to depression and dementia?

Now the speculation can end. Since May, the National Institutes of Health have been studying Seau’s brain on his family’s request, and last week researchers announced they had found clear evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

 

As we’ve reported, CTE has been linked to repetitive head injuries and can cause irritability, depression, suicide risk, memory loss and dementia.

As of August 2012, more than 3,000 former professional players had filed suit against the NFL, alleging that the league has not done enough to warn players about the dangers of concussions, or care for them after their careers are over.

 

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Samara Freemark Reporter
Public Insight Network

Reporter/producer Samara Freemark joined the Public Insight Network after four years at Radio Diaries in New York City, where she spent her time helping ordinary people tell their extraordinary stories for NPR. In the process, she developed an unshakeable belief in the beauty and power of personal narrative.

Before Radio Diaries Samara worked as an environmental reporter, a posting that took her to sinking islands, Superfund sites, and literal snakepits – Burmese pythons, to be exact. She also churned out copy and tape in the newsroom of WUOM Ann Arbor. Before settling on a career in radio she tried out policy research, community organizing, and urban planning before deciding she preferred soundwaves to spreadsheets.