OCEANSIDE -- The family of deceased NFL star Junior Seau has decided to allow researchers to study his brain for evidence of damage as the result of concussions, San Diego Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell said.
"The family was considering this almost from the beginning, but they didn't want to make any emotional decisions," Mitchell told The Times on Thursday night. "And when they came to a joint decision that absolutely this was the best thing, it was a natural occurrence for the Seau family to go forward."
Seau died Wednesday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest. He was found by his live-in girlfriend in their Oceanside home. He did not leave a suicide note.
Mitchell said the family came to the decision to allow Seau's brain to be studied "to help other individuals down the road."
There are similarities between the deaths of Seau and former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest last year. In a suicide note, Duerson had asked his family to donate his brain to the Boston University School of Medicine.
Researchers from that school later determined that Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions, and that played a role in triggering his depression.
The decision of who will study the Seau's brain has not been made, Mitchell said, despite speculation researchers at Boston University are the most likely candidates to do so.
Dr. David A. Hovda, director of the Brain Research Center at UCLA, said the link between brain injuries and depression has been known for years.
"When it happens to a person that I feel pretty confident has been exposed to repeat concussions, my first thought was, did somebody do what they could to make sure this individual knew what his exposure was in terms of concussions?" he said. "What the cost was going to be after he finished his career, and what he should look out for? Was the family notified? And did he get help if he needed it?"