As America prepares to celebrate the annual ritual of brutal competition known as the Super Bowl, the negative consequences of football on the brain have come under intense scrutiny.
On January 23, the family of Junior Seau – the famed 43-year-old former linebacker who committed suicide last May after 20 seasons of professional play – sued the National Football League (NFL) over the damage to Seau’s brain caused by concussions.
The family’s action came less than two weeks after the news that researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studying tissue from his donated brain, determined that he had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease
In recent years, studies of the brains of dozens of other deceased players, including two who killed themselves, have revealed CTE.
Since August 2011, some 190 brain-damage suits have been filed representing more than 4,000 former players alleging negligence by the NFL. A federal court has consolidated those suits. The Seau family has not decided whether it will enter the joint suit.
According to Seau’s son Tyler and Seau’s ex-wife Gina, Seau’s behavior included depression, wild mood swings, forgetfulness, irrationality, and insomnia.
The HD community’s outlook
Like few others, those of us in the Huntington’s disease community comprehend the brain’s vulnerabilities.
In addition to many other problems, all of the symptoms seen in Seau occur with HD.
Suicide is also all too familiar to the HD community: it is the second leading cause of death in HD patients.
Over some 15 years, I watched HD rob my mother’s ability to walk, talk, think, and eat, reducing her to a mere shadow of herself as it killed her brain cells.
Since learning of my own risk for the disease in 1995, and especially after testing positive for the HD gene in 1999, I have strived to prevent the inevitable onset of symptoms by practicing good brain health (click here to read more) and learning how HD harms the brain (as reflected in numerous articles in this blog).