Seau's ex-wife, Gina, and his oldest son Tyler, 23, told ABC News and ESPN in an exclusive interview they were informed last week that Seau's brain had tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia, memory loss and depression.The diagnosis was reached by three independent neuropathologists who were given three brains to examine in a blind study. All three, plus two government researchers, found CTE. According to ESPN, Seau's teams never in the course of his long career described him as having a concussion; until recently, though, the NFL was less than scrupulous about such diagnoses. Additionally, brain damage can accrue through routine hits that don't cause concussions. And of course, coaches, players, and the entire football culture at all levels is implicated in a "being a man means denying you're hurt" ethos.
"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."
Thousands of former players are suing the NFL for denying the link between football and brain damage after the discovery of solid evidence linking the two. These players and their loved ones face changed personalities and shortened lives and it's something the sport—led by its leading employer, the NFL—has yet to fully reckon with despite changes that have been made in recent seasons.