Seau’s Death: A Warning to the NFL
by Josh Pomper on Friday, May 18th, 2012
On May 2nd, 2012, NFL veteran Junior Seau took his own life. He was found dead in his home in Oceanside, California as the result of a gunshot wound to his chest. This tragedy shocked fans across the country and has caused an uprising of controversy centered on the safety of playing in the National Football League. Seau is not the first participant of a contact sport to have taken his own life; in fact, several other NFL players have committed suicide in the recent past. Medical examiners hypothesize a relationship between repeated head-trauma that eventually leads to mental instability. Though previously considered, Seau’s untimely death has now reintroduced this issue of head related violence, putting it on to the forefront of everyone in the NFL’s mind.
Seau’s death eerily resembles that of Dave Duerson. Duerson, an ex-Chicago Bear, took his own life during February of last year. The note, requesting that his brain be sent to a laboratory for research, supported the alleged correlation between brain trauma and mental illness. Seau’s death has reopened this topic and certainly provides for ample cause to continue research between the relationship of repeated head contact and suicide.
Experts on the matter propose the notion of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CPE), a progressive disease found in people who are repeatedly exposed to head contact. Though it is still too early to determine whether Seau suffered from the disease, examiners found clear evidence of CPE in Duerson’s brain. While scientists have yet to draw any conclusions as to why CPE causes suicidal thoughts, what is clear is that this disease played a substantial role in the death of Duerson. CPE may well have played a role in Seau’s suicide, as well.
The head traumas experienced by these athletes were most likely the consequences of concussions. A concussion is a medical term used to describe the head trauma experienced when the brain is shaken hard enough to make contact with the skull. The NFL has always treated concussions with care, both with regard to rules and to treatment. While the NFL should not be held responsible for these deaths, these occurrences should certainly encourage the league to re-evaluate their policy on malicious contact to the head. Currently, players who target the heads of opponents are fined insignificant chump change and given meager suspensions of 2 or so games. Given the severity of many injuries from head hunting hits and these injuries’ life threatening dangers, the NFL should increase the lengths of suspensions. The League should not hesitate to suspend a player for up to a year if he makes a head-hunting tackle.
Fans must understand that these issues are not exclusive to football. Participants in all major contact sports are at risk of repeated head trauma. For many Milton students, contact sports are a major part of our lives; some students even participate in contact sports all year round. While contact sports are an excellent way to extend activity beyond the classroom, participants of all ages must take caution to prevent concussions. In the wake of Seau’s death, athletes across the country should take action to reduce these injuries.
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