Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

02 May 2012

Junior Seau Dead at Age 43

We're just getting the details, but apparently all-time great linebacker Junior Seau has been found dead in his San Diego home of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. From what I gather, he had a really hard time leaving football behind.

I don't know much about Junior Seau's personal life or what he was doing after football but I do know about his greatness on the field. When I was lucky enough to be chosen to vote for the NFL Network's Top 100 of All-Time show, I thought Seau was the biggest name missing from the ballot, and I gave him a write-in vote in my top 50. He's a sure Hall of Famer. Twelve Pro Bowls, six-time first-team All-Pro. He made it to two Super Bowls, but lost them both, with the 1994 Chargers and 2007 Patriots. His best defense was probably the 1998 Chargers, who finished second in defensive DVOA but were dragged down by the horrible Leaf/Whelihan offense. That team had only two defensive Pro Bowlers, Seau and Rodney Harrison. But they were really, really good.

I hope his family finds comfort.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 02 May 2012

101 comments, Last at 07 May 2012, 12:01am by justanothersteve


by Ferguson1015 :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 2:37pm

Sad day for fans of the NFL. Seau was my favorite player growing up and was one of the reasons that I became a Charger fan. The guy was a beast and one hell of a guy off the field for San Diego.

I couldn't even root against him when he "un-retired" and joined the Patriots.

Sad day indeed.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 2:40pm

This is really, really sad. RIP.

by speedegg :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 2:46pm

Stunning. To me, he was the San Diego Chargers during the 90s. Feel sorry for his family, RIP.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 2:48pm

I just heard that TMZ is reporting that law enforcement sources are saying he shot himself like Dave Duerson, in the chest. The potential implications of this horrible story, on the day the Saints' players receive their suspensions, are immense. The tragedy for the people who loved Junior Seau is even larger.

by DavidL :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:06pm

My first reaction upon hearing he shot himself was to wonder if he was following Duerson's example. Chilling.

by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:08pm

That's exactly what I thought as well.

by Marko :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 7:39pm

Me too.

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:11pm

Scary. I thought the same thing. Really tragic.

by Led :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 7:24pm

I appreciate the Saints suspensions are decent PR, but they're meaningless to address the brain traume problem. In fact, nothing the NFL has done for player safety in the last 5 years, would have protected Seau (or Duerson for that matter). Linebackers still take on guards and FBs head on in the hole, play after play, and it's all perfectly legal. As a Jets fan, I fear for the health and future of Bart Scott. He's made a living out of being more willing and able to endure head trauma than the other guy.

Note that it's not WRs who are killing themselves.

by Independent George :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:30am

It wasn't a suicide, but Chris Henry's brain autopsy showed he had CTE at the time of his death. Of course, that means you're actually understating your argument.

by DoubleB4 (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 2:58pm

A legend in San Diego County. Played high school ball there. Went up the road to USC and then played the majority of his career for the Chargers. A real hometown hero for a transient community.

Just read where this is the 8th member of the 1994 Charger team to pass away.

by RutgersBCS (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:16pm

EIGHT members of the 94 chargeres are dead already? What the fuck kind of monstrosity is Professional Football?

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:22pm

When I first read that, I was shocked, but in thinking about it, I don't know if that is indicative of anything other than "of a pool of 53 (or more, depending on how many players were carried at different points durnig that season) men between the ages of 22 and 42, 8 of them are dead eighteen years later". Put in those terms, the most shocking realization is that 1994 was already 18 years ago.
The high-school class a year ahead of me has already buried four people, and that is only ten years removed.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:29pm

I'm not too much older than Seau. 15 people in my high school graduating class, which is about five times larger than an NFL team, are dead, and that includes women, who are significantly less likely to die young than men. I don't have at my fingertips where I can find the expected mortality rate over 18 years, for a group of 50 young men; it'd be interesting to see.

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:41pm

A 22 year male has about 54 years remaining (i.e. 76), a 42 year old has about 36 years remaining (i.e. 78).

From 2007

by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:55pm

Yeah, I was looking more for the data posted below; how many young men out of a group we would expect to die in 18 years.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 10:49am

The NFL does not have the same racial makeup as the United States population at large. More specifically, black males have a shorter life expectancy than white or asian males.

by RickD :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 11:15am

But life expectancy also increases with wealth and with physical fitness.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:10pm

There are plenty of reasons unrelated to head trauma that should lead us to suspect that might not hold true for NFL players, though . . .

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:40pm

Wealth at what point? Many players reach maturity through a lifetime of poverty up until entering the NFL. From a developmental standpoint and its sequalae, they were poor.

by Whatev :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 7:46pm

Physical fitness for sports and physical fitness for longevity are also not necessarily the same thing.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:46pm

This has mortality rates by ten-year age group. Extrapolating the data indicates that around 2 people "should" be expected to die from a late twenties group of sixty twenty-seven-year-olds over the course of the following eighteen years.

My comment wasn't meant to imply that I don't believe there are serious implications from playing pro football, only that eight doesn't necessarily seem crazy, given the amount of time that has passed.


by RickD :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:52pm

You also have to account for multiple sampling. By which I mean, while it is unlikely that a given set of people of a certain age would have 8 dead, it is far more likely that the maximum number of dead be 8, which the data is observed over 92 data points. (Considering all Super Bowl teams as the sample space.)

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:39pm

I would make two points. The first is that this might not necessarily be down to concussions. The other sport I love, cricket, has a significantly higher than average rate of suicide for ex-professionals, with former Yorkshire captain David Bairstow being one of the most notable examples. Cricket writer Simon Jones examined this in one of his books and speculated that some men were unable to cope with the withdrawal from a life that revolved around a game they loved, whether it was the game itself or the trappings and glory that go with it. They lose a life that they have built and don't seem to be believe that they will find another.

The second point would be that the NFL seems to have finally recognised that they need to reform the game, I'm not a Goodell fan but he I applaud his efforts in that direction.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:54pm

Yeah, suicide causation, or even correlation, is an immensely complex question, and one should be extremely hesitant about drawing strong conclusions, absent an immense amount of empirical evidence.

by GlennW :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:01pm

For the individual, yes. For the aggregate of all ex-NFL players though, I think we're well beyond the point of, gee, there might be something to this crazy notion that cigarette smoking might be causing lung cancer.

by Independent George :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:01pm

From a non-football board site I frequent (information is not confirmed):

Defensive lineman Shawn Lee died last year of a heart attack at 44. Defensive lineman Chris Mims died in 2008 of complications from having an enlarged heart at age 38. Offensive lineman Curtis Whitley died in 2008 of a drug overdose at age 39. Linebacker Doug Miller died in 1998 after he was struck by lightning, at age 28. Running back Rodney Culver died in 1996 in the crash of ValuJet Flight 592, at age 26. Linebacker David Griggs died in 1995 in a car accident at age 28.

It sounds more coincidental than anything else.

by Eddo :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:05pm

Probably. Especially considering one of the deaths is due to being freaking struck by lightning.

by Whatev :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 7:48pm

A lightning strike and a plane crash, huh?

by dryheat :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:07pm

I don't know about "coincidental" but very large men, likely going toward obese in retirement, suffering heart attacks is unsurprising, and hard to attribute towards concussions.

Certainly the lightning strikes and car crashes can happen to anybody, and also not concussion-related.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:19pm

Last year Pete King wrote an article about the 1986 Bengals and the effects of the game on the players twenty-five years on. Two of the players from the 48 on the opening day roster are dead. Lewis Billups in an auto accident in 1994 and Bobby Kemp shot himself in the chest in 1998.

So perhaps statistically the Chargers are just an outliers (or possibly the Bengals are).


by N (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:21pm

Does anyone remember the story that Daunte Culpepper told about trying to keep weight on and his diet? And he's a QB. The concussions are not the only struggles that NFL players have to adapt to when they leave the NFL (though that is the first thing that came to mind with the sad news of Seau), and if I had to guess, you'd have to eat a helluva lot of salad to maintain 350 pounds of weight while working out constantly. That means I don't think you'd be eating salad if you still had to work 7 days a week, minimum 10 hours a day...

by BJR :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 6:35pm

Assuming you are from the UK as well, I would note that this seems eerily similar to the suicide of ex-soccer player Gary Speed just a few months ago. Gary was also a player who had a long and distinguished career, was respected and loved by fans of all the teams he played for, and nobody would say a bad word about him. And he killed himself 3 or 4 years after retiring for no apparent reason.

by morganja :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 7:31pm

I saw a study 20 years ago talking about the problem of concussions in soccer. Apparently heading the ball repeatedly causes the same sort of injury. It got swept under the rug over there as well.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 5:01am

For central defenders, and some types of centre forward, I don't doubt it for a second. But left wingers like Speed are rarely called on to head the ball - I'd be surprised if it was a factor in that specific case. The coroner made no mention of CTE.

by verifiable (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 1:02pm

I believe the damage was mainly caused by the hits accumulated in drills, so probably not a huge disparity in the frequency by position (except goal keeper).

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 1:39pm

Pretty obvious to me why Gary Speed killed himself. Argument with the wife the night before ... come the court case she can't "remember" what she said. Have you ever argued with anybody and not been able to remember what it was about?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 4:44pm

All the damn time.

I married a Sicilian.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 5:58pm

I dated a Sicilian girl for a few months, nightmare.

by Eddo :: Fri, 05/04/2012 - 10:22am

Sounds like you both fell for one of the classic blunders.

by Yaguar :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:17pm

I'm an actuary, and I have mortality tables in front of me right now, actually.

A group of white-collar males, age 27, would have a ~98% survival rate after eighteen years.

A group of blue-collar males, age 27, would be closer to 95% or 96% survival after eighteen years.

So one death would be typical for 53 office workers, two deaths would be typical for 53 manual laborers. Eight deaths is tragic and incredibly far from normal. Hopefully (and probably) the '94 Chargers' experience is not typical for NFL teams.

by Theo :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 6:16pm

1995 David Griggs, LB, 28: died in a car crash in Florida.
1996 Rodney Culver, RB, 26: died when a ValuJet flight from Miami to Atlanta crashed into the Florida Everglades.
1998 Doug Miller, LB, 28: was struck by lightning - twice - in Colorado.
2008 Curtis Whitley, C, 39: overdosed/drugs.
2008 Chris Mims, DL, 38: cardiac arrest/heart attack.
2011 Lew Bush, LB, 42: cardiac arrest/heart attack.
2011 Shawn Lee, DT, 44: cardiac arrest brought on by double pneumonia.
2012 Junior Seau, LB, 43: suicide*

*under investigation

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 05/06/2012 - 2:35pm


According to NIOSH, NFL players live unexpectedly long lives.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:22pm

This floored me, Junior was one of the players that caused me to fall in love with the game. His passion, intensity and freakish athleticism combined to create a phenomenal spectacle. I will always remember the play where he blitzed off from his weakside linebacker position, drew a tackle and a running back. After reading this he dropped into coverage and picked off the pass, I've never seen that before or since.

He will live on through his personal and charitable legacy. I hope that his family can find comfort from that in this tragedy.

by RickD :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:49pm

Wow. I would have put him as one of the least likely athletes to commit suicide.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:52pm

This is fucking awful news. And it really does force hard questions about the nature of the game.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 3:53pm

Can't wait for all those folks who love to crow about how "jacked up!" hits are the essence of the game to explain how the violence of the sport is unrelated to the problems players have been having...

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:02pm

Well the NFL isn't made up of a random sample of people. These are people with high calorie high metabolism lifestyles in the extreme (which generally greatly reduces life expectancy). Its like driving your car with the tachometer in the red all the time, it is just not good for it.

Also many of them come from backgrounds with lower life expectancy. Also many of them have devote their whole lives to one pursuit that is now in the past.

Also they are on average in their what mid to late 40s?

Certainly 8 dead out of 60 (I doubt the team had the same roster all year), is a lot, but it isn't that surprising given the context.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:08pm

Shit. Shit and damn. Not sure what else to say.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:23pm

The only reason that Seau would have shot himself in the chest is if he thought his brain had stopped working. How many former players have to do this before the league starts to make thorough and vigorous efforts to help former players. Blaming a guy who's brain has stopped functioning effectively for losing his money or messing up his life is not only cruel it is pointless. The league was built on these guys sacrifices to ignore their plight is contemptible.

And the Union needs to stop its objections to HGH testing right now too. If the reason that players are bigger and faster is because they are using HGH then they need to stop, the impacts these guys hit each other with get bigger every year. NFL players have been using performance enhancers since the 70s, sometimes with teams' involvement (does anyone really think the Steelers were the only ones handing out the smarties?). Bigger faster players hit each other harder but their brains gain no ability to withstand these traumas. It is probably a good thing if players stop using HGH to artificially prolong their careers (of which I have heard insiders say it is rife throughout the league), long terms it would be far fewer hits to the head. Football is dangerous enough. Football on steroids may be significantly worse and needs to be stopped.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:31pm

One problem with getting the messed-up brains of ex-NFL players is that you don't know where the damage occurred. While it would seem logical that a player who had been going through NFL training camps, drills and games for 10+ years of their life would have taken a lot of hits ... you can't be sure that more of the damage wasn't caused in high school, college or even just in jackass stunts during their free time.

I guess you would need the brains of same-age college players who didn't make it to the NFL to begin to control for effect.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 6:05pm

If the NFL and college teams are profiting from the player's activities then they have responsibility, especially if concerns about concussions were kept from the players and the union. If the problem can be established as far back as high school players then maybe the game does need to change - quite a lot of people play high school ball though and I haven't heard of hundreds and thousands of football related suicides.

I would say that the NFL is at least moving in the right direction with base line testing of all players' neurological activity.

by CoachDave :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:27pm

While I'm not arguing with the totality of your point...

Any Mental Health professional (like my sister) who has dealt with suicide knows that there are many reasons why someone shoots themselves in the chest vs. in the head...one reason that is consistently given by people who are not successful is that they didn't want to have to have a "closed casket" because it would greatly upset a loved one(s).

Anyway...just a sad and terrible outcome for a really great player and according to what I've read in the last couple of hours...a great contributor to his community.

RIP Junior.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:40pm

He could also have made the decision to end his life and then thought that his brain could be useful to the study on cranial injuries. We cannot know at this stage.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:57pm

I hadn't thought of that.

My thinking follows on from the Duerson tragedy. You are correct to point out we do not know the details. I should probably have been less explicit.

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:24pm

If my leg hurts, I go to the doctor.
If my tooth hurts, I go to the dentist.
If my memory is going, my head aches all the time, I've spent 10 years being among the best in the world at what I do, I suddenly have unending free time, I'm critically acclaimed, and admitting mental issues is a sign of weakness reviled by the culture I've been surrounded by my entire life, who the hell do I go to?

The immediate sadness of today is a part of the broader sadness of this whole situation. What's worse than the news is that we all know he won't be the last.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:13pm

If my memory is going, my head aches all the time, I've spent 10 years being among the best in the world at what I do, I suddenly have unending free time, I'm critically acclaimed, and admitting mental issues is a sign of weakness reviled by the culture I've been surrounded by my entire life, who the hell do I go to?

The mental health stigma is a problem everywhere, but I would imagine it's even worse in the NFL like you say. Fortunately testing and research is getting to the point where some mental illnesses can be pegged to physical issues. Why no stigma against someone who has a body that can't regulate insulin properly (and sometimes caused by actions under that persons control, other times not) and yet there is a stigma against a person whose body can't properly regulate serotonin or norepinephrine? Hopefully as more information gets out there about some of this some of the stigma will fade.

Back more on topic, Seau was a hell of player and his death sucks. The NFL has a real issue in front of it, and it's not just the NFL league officials but the players union too. Retired player health care is covered by the CBA and during several of the negotiations the players cut out potential benefits to get more money for themselves (in the current and previous CBA's). I'm not saying that is a major part of it, but it's something that people need to recognize, including current players, they have had opportunities to deal with some of it on some scale.

There is some evidence out there that the NFL has kept quiet on affects of concussions as far back as the 30's. The lawsuits that are pending and in progress on some of this are likely to bring even more ugly to the surface that most people haven't seen before too. Sadly I think the current situation is still going to get worse than it is before it gets better.

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 8:03pm

My point was partially (maybe not clear enough) that money (like in the CBA) does nothing. Let's say I have a $5MM budget. Who do I give my money to fix my problems? This is a very difficult case for a psychiatrist or psychologist -- long-term concussion issues, total outlier in wealth, total outlier in celebrity, total outlier in, well, almost every way. Even if you magic-ed the stigma away, you *still* wouldn't solve the problem, and what scares me is I'm not sure you'd even improve it that much.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 8:54pm

Sorry, I wasn't actually trying to dispute anything you said, I was mostly just adding some more information and personal rants. Though your response does show me that I do have a disagreement with you; I think there are general techniques that can help with coping skills regardless of how how much of an outlier the case is. One of the interesting things about people is that reactions to problems tend to be similar even if the problem is small in a relative sense. What matters, and in most cases can be at least partially treated, is how the person having the problem perceives it. Now admittedly if the problem is relatively small in the grand scheme of things, once you get through a person reacting like it's the end of the world, it's easier to handle than something that is a bigger issue, but that doesn't mean it can't be handled.

I know people that have suffered head trauma that causes mental illness issues for them (bipolar in one case, anxiety and depression in another) and medication and counseling with a good support network can do wonders. So while I agree that for an NFL player, especially on of Seau's status, that the correct help would be a scarcer commodity than for the issues that Joe Officeguy faces, I think it would be more available than some people might expect and money makes locating proper help easier.

So I agree that getting rid of the stigma wouldn't solve the problem, but it would make it a lot more approachable. Hell if he even had just told a former teammate that he had thoughts about death being a potential option things very likely would have been better for him. I'm not saying it would have been able to prevent what happened, but I'm not ruling out the possibility that it could. With the stigma in place I can't imagine that he even considered looking for help or even hinting that he was struggling with whatever he was. Since he killed himself I'm confident in saying he was struggling with something.

The mistake I think a lot of people make is assuming that vastly different socio-economic statuses lead to vast differences in people. While every person and case is unique, there really are some under currents that are the same. This is the same reason why Matt Forte is pissed about making less than other running backs, while he is still making more money in a year than most people will earn in a lifetime. He feels unappreciated in relation to his peers. He and Joe Officeguy who is making $45,000 a year and feels he should be making $55,000 a year based on what his peers get are actually feeling pretty much the same thing even though on relative scales Forte's issue seems pretty small or petty to the Joe Officeguy. Joe and Matt can use a majority of the same techniques to cope with that stress in a successful manner. The guy who was the best swimmer at a D2 school who suffers an injury and can no longer swim actually internalizes the issue in a very similar fashion to what Sterling Sharpe getting injured and ending his career does even though Sharpe was one of the 5 best in the world when he got hurt (if not the best) and Doug Waterguy was no where on a world scale, he was still best in the environment he most interacted with and losing the ability to do that still hits him in the mostly the same way.

At least my limited knowledge of the field and studies I have read leads me to believe the evidence put forth supports those theories better than any other theory that I've seen. I also think that a lot of people haven't been exposed to that knowledge and since it's counter intuitive for most that they don't believe it, or don't come around to thinking like that on their own.

Again I'm rambling. It's a serious issue. I don't know if it can be solved. I could be completely off base. I still see the stigma as an issue in this specific case and big issue for the general populace (I believe a lot more people would lead much better lives if mental illness was viewed the same was as diabetes or cancer) and my issue with the stigma is more for the general population than for NFL players. I also don't think money can solve all the problems, but I think it can help. "Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy the grease for the vehicle that can get you there."

by AJ (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:42pm

I think people who are using this death as some kind of poster child for why the nfl causes early mortality are off base. There's no evidence he was suffering from dementia, game withdrawal, or anything like that. We have no idea why he killed himself so this entirely speculation on our parts. As had been show several posts earlier, many of the deaths of his former teamates in 1994 were off the accidental/random effects of chance.

Is the game violent? yes, but remember that the majority of nfl player rarely play longer than 3 years and i don't think theres been any conclusive evidence to show a career longer than 3 years has a significant effect on your overall lifespan. All of this is just purely speculation without any conclusive tests.

its a sad day for his family.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 4:57pm

Of course it is speculation for the moment. But the fact that he shot himself in the chest and was on the donor list for the Sports Legacy Institute (as TMZ is reporting) is ample cause for such speculation.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:56pm

This is what I meant. Can't speak for others.

by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:43pm

actually I thought the NFL did do a study a while back. The results if I remember correct were that if a players left the league "healthy" in general their life expectancy wasn't significantly lower than the general population, but if they left the league due to serious injury it was significantly lower than the general population. I believe Aaron has referred to the NFL report from time to time. One of the regular football outsiders can probably post the study results more accurately than this:)

by RickD :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 9:50pm

I think there's evidence that something was deeply wrong, but we don't know the exact cause, and it might be too simplistic to blame the NFL. I think there was an element of being unable to cope with the loss of football.

The sad thing is that there were definite warning signs. The guy drove his SUV off a 100-foot cliff earlier this year. I feel stupid for having bought his explanation that he fell asleep while driving. In retrospect, that looks like his first suicide attempt.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:15pm

Very sad news. Condolences to his family, friends and fans.

by Mike Y :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 5:39pm

It would be stupid and reckless to encourage a kid to start playing football.

by Theo :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 6:31pm

Your opinion.
Danger is part of the thrill. Some people live for it even if it means it will cost them (part of) their health.
Would one encourage it? Up to you. Would you stop someone from doing something he loves? No.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 7:07pm

Why, because what is still a small percentage of ex NFL players have had issues. First of all, the chances of a kid getting to play college football and especially in the NFL is very low. Chances are that kid will be weeded out before the amount of hits that necessitates these types of issues.

This is a very, very sad story, but I think time should be given before people start connecting the dots between this tragedy and more evidence that the foundation of the NFL is messed up.

by Lujack (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 7:44pm

I don't know if I agree with that at all. It is clear that there are significant health risks to playing football over the long term, but even if we say that the majority of long-time NFL players are likely to commit suicide (which is exaggerating the problem by a huge margin), the vast majority of football players play in high school and not college.

Junior Seau played football for almost thirty years of his life, counting high school and college; Dave Duerson played for almost twenty. The average high school player plays football for four years. And when you factor in that concussions are more likely at the higher level, and that the more concussions you have the more likely you are to get another and the more severe each one is...the level of risk is multiplied ENORMOUSLY when you become an NFL player, as opposed to a high school player or even just a college player.

by RickD :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 9:57pm

Football is dangerous in two ways. The most dramatic way is the risk of a debilitating, catastrophic injury. For me, the injury to Darryl Stingley when I was a kid had a profound effect on me - it definitely discouraged me from pursuing the sport seriously. The second danger is the cumulative result of years of banging and hitting. I think the sport has done what it can to address the former risk, but I am less sure about the latter risk. What exacerbates the problem is the culture that demands of players that they never admit any kind of weakness or injury, and praises players who ignore serious injuries.

I would certainly agree that the second risk is much less for players who only play in high school and college. And as for the first risk, it happens too often, but from an actuarial standpoint, it's not really happening that often. You probably see more high school football players killed in car crashes than on the field.

by BJR :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 3:31am

To annex your second point, there is also the related use of chemicals by players - legal or illegal - in order to be able to take the field.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 3:36am

Heck, it doesn't even have to be unusual chemicals. How about just plain old food? A lot of players have a playing weight well in excess of what they would carry in another profession. Maintaining a high weight can certainly have adverse health effects, though granted that's going be defrayed to some degree by the superior conditioning and exercise that comes with it.

by morganja :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 6:10pm

Very sad news. Tragic for his family. But to those who condemn someone for committing suicide, people do it because they can't find the strength to go on and have tried everything they know how to do. It's rarely something done out of passion, rather as a last resort after every other avenue has been closed.

by Shogun-6 (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 8:06pm

Tragic news. Certainly, no one can know for certain why a relatively young man would take his life. However, the assertion that head trauma could not have played a role or likely played no role seems wishful thinking, at best, considering modern research into head trauma and suicides.
Doctors have suggested for years a correlation between suicide and damage caused to the brain through repeated, sports-related head trauma (CTE). Now, cases outside of sports are suggesting the same relationship:

by The Hypno-Toad :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 8:18pm

Very, very sad. Even when he was destroying the Broncos game in, game out, he was simply a joy to watch. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans.

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2012 - 9:17pm

Could not believe the news when I heard it. He was the cornerstone of the team. Chilling that he shot himself in the chest, my prayers go out to his family and friends.

by Geronimo (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 8:45am

Football has a problem, for sure, and must find ways -- even if they seem extreme at first -- of minimizing the damage. How about *shortening* the season, Goodell? Or limiting each player to 12 games per? More bye weeks? Eliminate of 3-point stance? All should be considered.

But before we get too harsh on football, I wonder why no one talks as much about NASCAR? Thousands -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driver_deaths_in_motorsport -- of people have DIED during that sport's history, including many of its biggest stars. Dale Earnhardt dying in a race would be the equivalent of Tom Brady dead after a tackle.

by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 10:45am

Before we jump on the concussion bandwagon, can we make sure this has anythign to do with them?

After watching Seau in NE, he's exactly the sort of player/person where this doesn't surprise me. Its tragic, but to me atleast, not unexpected.

He seemed like the sort of guy where football was EVERYTHING to him; the sort of guy who would have a lot of trouble adapting to life after football.

As an aside, the suicide rates for ex-NFL players aren't really any different than any other sport, so there's not a whole lot of reason to suspect that its being driven by concussions.

by tuluse :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 10:58am

I'm surprised he didn't go into coaching to stay attached to the game.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 11:50am

Big difference between having trouble adapting to life after football and committing suicide. To say this wasn't unexpected is 20/20 hindsight. His family and the people who knew him were stunned, but you weren't surprised?

by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 2:41pm

"Big difference between having trouble adapting to life after football and committing suicide."

For some its a big difference, for some its not. People kill themselves after retiring. People kill themselves after getting out of jail. People kill themselves after getting out of the military.

Major life changes, especially major life changes that cause you to go from a highly structured environment to one with very little structure seems to increase the risk of suicide.

I'm not saying I expected Seau to commit suicide. I'm saying I'm not all that surprised. He's exactly the type you worry about this with.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:31pm

Tim Brown said the same thing, that he saw Seau as a man who would have a hard time adjusting to life after football and without football. I too am surprised he wouldn't try coaching.

by Paul R :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 11:58am

Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Terry Long and Ray Easterling--all self-inflicted gunshots to the chest. (There may be more, that was just five minutes of Googling.)

It makes me wonder if a man in that desperate situation, even if he doesn't know the cause of his distress, knows that he just can't take another shot to the head.

by ticttoc (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:22pm

I know this is off topic and nof relevant to Seau at this point but has been bugging me for a bit. Has there been any serious discussion about removing helmets and major pads? Going rugby, if you will. All the rule changes now and what may come in the future, in regards to protecting players, are just complicated webs that are/may slowly change(ing) the game to something less compelling. I would suggest that a removal of helmets and shoulder pads would force the players to adjust. A radical change that is unlikely, but to me, more interesting. When I watch Rugby I am always amazed by the fundamentally sound tackling and the constant ability of the players not to smash skulls. NFL coaches would die for the tackling demonstrated in Rugby. Or would stripping the current helmet/pads (and of course NCAA and HS would have to follow suit shortly thereafter) seriously change the way the game is played? Are rugby players less likely to suffer concussions? Serious injury?

by tuluse :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:30pm

There was a time when football didn't have helmets. People died from skull fractures.

There are a multitude of reasons why tackling is not as violent and dangerous in rugby compared to the NFL. The big ones are that the players are less athletic, and that small amounts of field position are not important (you can let a guy drag you for 3 yards and it won't really affect who wins the game).

by SandyRiver :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 3:34pm

Less athletic? I wouldn't try telling that to the All-Blacks. At top levels, Ruggers probably compare well with other world class athletes. The field position importance (or lack thereof, except near the try-line) is a far bigger factor, as noted in a later post.

by tuluse :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 4:07pm

I stand by my statement. New Zealand has a population that would make it the 26th largest state in the US. It would be like if you tried to make an NFL team entirely from people from Kentucky.

by SandyRiver :: Fri, 05/04/2012 - 3:32pm

Point taken. However, New Zealanders are rather athletic on the whole, and especially proud of their rugby team. Perhaps it might be more like an owner of racehorses filling his stables entirely with thoroughbreds from Kentucky.

by Jimmy :: Fri, 05/04/2012 - 11:35am

The biggest difference in the types of athlete you get in Rugby and in Football are that most NFL players would not have the conditioning to run up and down a rugby pitch for 80mins. They would probably dominate the game for ten to fifteen minutes and then be completely gassed. Football players are larger, more explosive athletes. The heaviest rugby players are typically 260lbs or so but have way better stamina than just about any NFL player.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sat, 05/05/2012 - 5:01pm

In the history of mixed-rules competitions, football teams tend to beat rugby teams.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 05/05/2012 - 5:10pm

I've never heard of that. Is there anywhere I can look for footage of one of these games or maybe just an explanation of rules?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 05/06/2012 - 2:21am

Good luck on video -- most of these were played in the first half of the 20th century.

The rules were typically rugby for one half and football for the other, highest combined score wins (allowing for differences in value per score)

by Dan :: Fri, 05/04/2012 - 2:47pm

NFL football is also played at higher speed, with players going all-out for 5 seconds and then getting a long break to rest. American football is a bunch of sprints, rugby is a marathon.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 12:41pm

I would suggest that a removal of helmets and shoulder pads would force the players to adjust.

Indeed. Death is quite an adjustment.

by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 2:48pm

Rugby tackling isn't "fundamentally sound," and NFL coaches most certainly don't want Rugby tackling.

Rugby tackling is "fundamentally different" from NFL tackling because, in Rugby, it doesn't matter if the guy drags you 10 yards before going down, as long as he goes down.

If the NFL, in most cases, the guy dragging you 10 yards is just as bad as you just missing the tackle.

If you want to force Rugby-style tackling on the NFL, we're gonna have to change the downs to 1st and 30. Better or worse, it would be a fundamentally different game.

by Lujack (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 5:25pm

The NFL could mandate fundamentally sound tackling, though. It would be fairly simple-a tackler who stays on his feet and wraps up is safe; a tackler who leaves his feet is liable to be flagged. I think that this would reduce the number of head-to-head blows dramatically; the most dangerous hits are the ones where players launch themselves instead of keeping their feet and driving through.

The minor benefit is fundamental tackling; the much higher benefit is safety.

by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 7:56pm

And you'd almost never see a team punt if they did that.

You need momentum to stop someone short.

by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2012 - 6:53pm

Man, this story brought a tear to my eye, RIP. Seau about 3 days before he died:

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Sat, 05/05/2012 - 9:44pm

When Junior pulled the trigger, did he say ow?

by tally :: Sun, 05/06/2012 - 3:46pm

Three days and that's all you could come up with, genius?

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 05/07/2012 - 12:01am

Really interesting interview with Dorsey Levens on ESPN Wisconsin which brings up the concussion issue. Levens is one of the approximately 75 players in a lawsuit against the NFL regarding concussions and has also been involved with a documentary about concussion-related problems NFL players experience. Click on this link and then click on the Dorsey Levens link. Will probably be there for the next few days.