Junior Seau: An Illustrative Case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and Update on Chronic Sports-Related Head Injury

World Neurosurg. 2016 Feb:86:515.e11-6. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2015.10.032. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


Background: Few neurologic diseases have captured the nation's attention more completely than chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been discovered in the autopsies of professional athletes, most notably professional football players. The tragic case of Junior Seau, a Hall of Fame, National Football League linebacker, has been the most high-profile confirmed case of CTE. Here we describe Seau's case, which concludes an autopsy conducted at the National Institutes of Health that confirmed the diagnosis.

Case description: Since 1990, Junior Seau had a highly distinguished 20-year career playing for the National Football League as a linebacker, from which he sustained multiple concussions. He committed suicide on May 2, 2012, at age 43, after which an autopsy confirmed a diagnosis of CTE. His clinical history was significant for a series of behavioral disturbances. Seau's history and neuropathologic findings were used to better understand the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and possible risk factors for CTE.

Conclusions: This high-profile case reflects an increasing awareness of CTE as a long-term consequence of multiple traumatic brain injuries. The previously unforeseen neurologic risks of American football have begun to cast doubt on the safety of the sport.

Keywords: American football; Chronic traumatic injury; Sports-related injury; Traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Case Reports
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / etiology
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / history*
  • Famous Persons*
  • Football / history*
  • Football / injuries
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Male

Personal name as subject

  • Seau Junior