Junior Seau Had CTE

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Junior Seau's death prompted me to stop watching football. It wasn't clear to me, at the time, that Seau actually had CTE. But thinking about it (the way I now think about Jovan Belcher) made it really hard to be entertained by the sport. With good reason:


"I think it's important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE," Gina Seau said. "It's important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don't want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes." She said the family was told that Seau's disease resulted from "a lot of head-to-head collisions over the course of 20 years of playing in the NFL. And that it gradually, you know, developed the deterioration of his brain and his ability to think logically." 

CTE is a progressive disease associated with repeated head trauma. Although long known to occur in boxers, it was not discovered in football players until 2005. Researchers at Boston University recently confirmed 50 cases of CTE in former football players, including 33 who played in the NFL. 

Seau shot himself in the heart May 2. His death stunned not only the football world but also his hometown, San Diego, where he played the first 13 years of his 20-year career. Seau led the Chargers to their first and only Super Bowl appearance and became a beloved figure in the community.
I am listening to Herman Edwards talk about how this information can help other players. But the information can only lead to the end of football as we know it. You can't fix this by getting rid of big hits. You can't fix this by focusing on concussions. Junior Seau never had such a diagnosis, and even if he did, it is the repeated "minor" hits that cause CTE. The enemy is the game itself. And it is killing men.

At the time of Seau's death it was said that we should not jump to conclusions. I generally think prudence is a good idea. Except that an astonishing number of football players keep shooting themselves. 

A rather stunned Mike Greenberg just put it well: "You can't live with a business when one of the results can be Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It's a hard word to even pronounce. it's a brain disease." 

Here is Tyler Seau on his father's death:

Tyler said he was holding tightly to his memories of getting up at 5 in the morning to lift weights with his father before heading to the beach for a workout and surfing. And while the diagnosis helps, he said, it can't compensate for his loss. 

"I guess it makes it more real," he said. "It makes me realize that he wasn't invincible, because I always thought of him as being that guy. Like a lot of sons do when they look up to their dad. You know? You try to be like that man in your life. You try to mimic the things that he does. Play the game the way he did. Work the way he did. And, you know, now you look at it in a little bit different view." 

Tyler added: "Is it worth it? I'm not sure. But it's not worth it for me to not have a dad. So to me it's not worth it."
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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