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Ex-NFL Players' Suicides Fuel Debate On Football Brain Injuries

This morning, football fans awoke to the shocking news that former National Football League star Junior Seau had died in an apparent suicide. Although few details have been divulged, the former linebacker's death resulted from a gunshot to the chest - purportedly self-inflicted. His ex-wife told the media that she and her children had received text messages from Seau shortly before his death, stating that he loved them.

Seau's death immediately added fuel to an ongoing debate about the effect that football has on players' brains. Just weeks ago, former Atlanta Falcons player Ray Easterling committed suicide; apparently tired of his daily battle with severe depression and dementia. Easterling, 62, was the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the NFL. The suit alleges, in part, that the NFL failed to diagnose and treat players who suffered concussions.

In 2011, former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest. Before taking his life, Duerson left a note wishing for his brain to be examined for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Researchers later confirmed that Duerson was suffering from CTE.

The debate about head injuries and pro football is highly contentious. Some people say concussions and brain damages are an inherent risk of the game - or even an inseparable part of it. Others state that the average NFL player is expected to hide head injuries or continue playing after suffering a concussion.

Regardless of your stance on the issue, it's important to remember that the most severe effects of concussions and head trauma often don't manifest until long after a player's career is over. When a player suffers a concussion at any level of football, it's crucial for coaches and trainers to ensure that head-injury protocol is carefully followed.

Source: BusinessInsurance.com, "Lead plaintiff in NFL concussion lawsuits dies in apparent suicide," Sheena Harrison, April 26, 2012

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