Seau's Hall call puts concussions back in spotlight

Sat Jan 31, 2015 9:35pm EST
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By Steve Keating

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Domestic violence and deflated footballs have hogged the off field headlines in the Super Bowl buildup but concussions were back in the spotlight on Saturday when Junior Seau was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Seau stalked the NFL gridiron for 20 seasons earning 12 Pro Bowl selections and a reputation as a feared and ferocious tackler but on Saturday he entered the Canton, Ohio shrine as a tragic reminder of the price paid for playing a violent sport committing suicide almost three years ago by shooting himself in the chest.

A study of Seau's brain revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain condition caused by decades of cranium rattling battles that can lead to aggression and dementia.

Seau is among a handful of current or former NFL players who committed suicide in recent years.

While their deaths could not be directly tied to the sport, violent or erratic behavior is consistent with symptoms of CTE.

"I would like to say there will never be concussions in the NFL but that's not practical given that it is a collision sport but the NFL has done more than any organization I know to manage the risk," Dr. Matthew Matava, president of the NFL Physicians Society told Reuters. "There has been a cultural shift not only among the players but the coaches and everyone affiliated with the game in terms of what a concussion is.

"We have done a good job of educating players."

While concussions will never be eliminated from the NFL, the league is slowing gaining control of what was once a misunderstood and neglected epidemic that left behind generations of damaged players.   Continued...

A picture of former San Diego Chargers and NFL linebacker Junior Seau is displayed as fans (rear) arrive at Qualcomm Stadium to participate in a "Celebration of Life" memorial, held in Seau's memory in San Diego, California May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Blake