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Football and brain injuries -- what is the connection?

More and more we are hearing about the dangers of repeated concussions, or even head hits, among sports players and professional athletes. Does the injury need to be severe -- or are repeated injuries enough to do damage? In the case of the National Football League, were the owners aware of the potential brain damage, and if so, when did they know it?

The recent alleged suicide of NFL great Junior Seau, has led to new discussions about traumatic brain injury, and who may be responsible or liable for the damage.

Traumatic brain injury is once again in the news due to the death, allegedly by suicide of 43-year-old Junior Seau. He was found by his girlfriend, dead of a gunshot wound to the chest.

According to news sources, he may be the latest victim of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. It has symptoms like Alzheimer's disease, and like Alzheimer's it is only conclusively determined by an autopsy. The areas of the brain that are apparently damaged are those related to impulse control, emotion and memory.

Junior Seau's apparent suicide was preceded by that of Dave Duerson, also an NFL player. In his suicide note, he stated that he wanted to donate his brain to science. Duerson's family is in litigation with the NFL for wrongful death.

Apparently, Seau's family is deciding whether or not to donate the football player's body to science. It is also unknown whether or not the Seau family will join the growing trend of ex-NFL football players and their families who are in litigation with the NFL for damages including pain and suffering, or wrongful death.

Source: Bloomberg, "Seau's Brain Seen Offering Special Insight Into NFL Hits," Elizabeth Lopatto and Eben Novy-Williams, May 7, 2012

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