Seau's death renews NFL concussion debate
BOSTON (WHDH) -- Junior Seau's death renews a debate about the dangers players face after they leave the NFL.
Boston University is spearheading research linking brain injuries to depression in retired athletes.
There's no question that playing football can and does lead to concussions, but did they play a role in Junior Seau's decision to take his own life?
“How many concussions did that guy have? They called concussions when we were playing dings. Couple smelling salts, ice on the back of your head and you’re back on the field,” said Fred Smerlas, former Patriot.
We may never know for sure what happened with Junior Seau, but according to the Director of Sports Neurology for Brigham and Women's Hospital, as of right now there is no known link between concussions and depression. He points out that could change.
“There are some pathologists that have found some findings looking at the brain tissue that are very unique to these scenarios such as in boxers or football players that have had multiple hits to the head,” said Dr. Peter Warinner.
The research is ongoing and in its early stages, but it may show microscopic changes to the brain tissue.
“Cumulatively over time, changes occur. Some abnormal substances accumulate in parts of the brain and that can lead to a problem. Now it’s some people may be more susceptible than others and that problem -- or those problems can be described as cognitive impairment, dementia, memory loss or movement disorders. Now along that spectrum you can have perhaps mood disorders like anxiety or depression. When one person has depression it can lead to suicidal thoughts and suicidal actions,” Dr. Warinner said.
Dr. Warinner cautioned however, more research is needed.
“Let’s take it seriously, but let’s not overreact and think that everydody needs to be in bubble wrap and not play any contact sports,” Dr. Warinner said.