Seau’s Family Files Suit Against the NFL

Dave Mitchell January 24, 2013 Comments Off on Seau’s Family Files Suit Against the NFL

Junior Seau committed suicide almost one year ago. One month ago it was discovered what everyone suspected, he was suffering from a serious brain injury, brought upon by years of playing the game. Is the NFL at fault, or the way Seau played? Attempts to answer this and many other questions will be made in the subsequent months inside a courtroom.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed Wednesday in California Superior Court in San Diego by Seau’s widow, son and remaining family. No amount was disclosed. Seau was a premier linebacker during his 20 seasons in the NFL, and is considered to be a first ballot Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in 2014. He retired in 2009.

Seau died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in May. The family requested an autopsy and it was found Seau was suffering with CTE. According to an article posted on the Boston University medical website, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a “progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic sub concussive hits to the head.”

CTE causes progressive degeneration of brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein, somewhat like “scar tissue” on the brain.  These changes happen over a period of months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma.  Degeneration brings on memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.

The suit claims the NFL “hid” by “omission” the dangers of repetitive blows to the head. This is no different than the other lawsuits currently in federal and state courtrooms against the league. It says Seau developed CTE from those hits, and accuses the NFL of deliberately ignoring and concealing evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries.

Many believe, simply by Commissioner Roger Goodell’s work on trying to eliminate hard hits above the shoulders, the league has already admitted culpability. Certainly helmets are made better today than years past, yet tackling is a lost art. Too many players lead with their heads and not shoulders, many looking to just knock ball carriers down rather than wrapping up and forcing them down.

An Associated Press article in November found more than 3,800 players have filed suit against the NFL over head injuries in recent years. More than 100 of the concussion lawsuits have been brought together before US District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia.

As usual, there are diverse opinions on who is at fault for these suits and the increase in head injuries over the years. Fans, as usual, hate to see changes in the game they have grown up watching and spend every weekend in the fall living and dying with the results of their team. These fans have disdain for the league trying to protect the players from head injuries, yet have the same opinion of any player suffering from head trauma and wanting paid for their injuries.

This compares to any everyday worker that suffers, for example, from carpal tunnel syndrome. Certainly not on a life threatening basis, but can be debilitating to the worker nonetheless. In the end, that same worker will have to suffer until surgery is performed. Yes one can leave that position and gain employment elsewhere, in another industry. Yet why isn’t something done to eliminate the possibility of this injury happening? Shouldn’t the owners have a responsibility to their workers to make the work place a safer environment?

It’s disgusting to see some of the comments written on this lawsuit. From the family being lazy and on a “money grab”, Seau brought it on himself, to even calling them a derogatory name. One has to wonder if they were suffering from CTE what would be their comments then? This is what our society has become. We are so divided we cannot even see the house across the street anymore. What used to be a nation pulling together has become one pulling apart.

Currently the NFL and the Players Union are looking into the turf at FedEx Field in Washington where the Redskins play. By January the natural grass is neither natural nor grass.  This turf is blamed for the injuries to a pair of players. The agent for Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons has blamed his clients ACL tear on the turf. Many believe super-rookie Robert Griffin III suffered his ACL injury because of the loose turf also. Where is the outcry for this impediment?

As always, the NFL is closed-mouthed about any legal development.

”Our attorneys will review it and respond to the claims appropriately through the court,” the NFL said in a statement Wednesday.

This dilemma is not close to being over.


Dave Mitchell co-hosts with Mark Donahue the UST talk show “Ohio Baseball Weekly,” highlighting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The Show returns March 4 with a two hour opening night special starting at 9 pm.

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