Researchers in Boston want to study the brain of the late Junior Seau for evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy. Seau’s family may decide to allow it.
Pastor Shawn Mitchell told Reuters that Seau’s family is “considering” the request.
Frankly, it would be a surprise if Seau’s brain doesn’t show evidence of CTE. He played one of the game’s most violent positions for two full decades, repeatedly absorbing and delivering contact, often involving his helmet. For 19.5 of those seasons, the NFL used a much more lax approach to ensuring that players with concussions were held out of practice and games while exhibiting symptoms.
The fact that Seau never had any documented issues with concussions doesn’t mean he never suffered concussions. Former NFL linebacker Gary Plummer estimates that linebackers experience at least five low-grade concussions per game. “Junior played for 20 years,” Plummer told the San Jose Mercury News. “That’s five concussions a game, easily. How many in his career then? That’s over 1,500 concussions. I know that’s startling, but I know it’s true. I had over 1,000 in my 15 years. I felt the effects of it. I felt depression going on throughout my divorce. Junior went through it with his divorce.”
The broader question is whether the changes the NFL has made since 2009 will reduce head trauma and, in turn, reduce and/or eliminate CTE. For all players, the challenge is to find a way to give them the support they need once their careers end.
“There is no exit strategy from the NFL,” Plummer said. “It’s ‘You’re done.’ You don’t even get an apple and a road map. What needs to happen is mandatory counseling. In 15 years as a middle linebacker, I never would have thought of seeing a counselor. I saw one in my divorce, and I just called my counselor today. It can’t be optional, because macho players are taught to be invincible and they’re not going to do it. Make it mandatory.”
Plummer’s suggestion has plenty of merit. And if it keeps only one former player who is dealing with depression and migraines and the other effects of a life of football suddenly becoming a lifetime without it, it will have been worth the effort and the expense.