POSTED: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 2:45pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 2:49pm
CNN MEDICAL NEWS — Star NFL linebacker Junior Seau -- just 43 years old when he took his own life last May -- suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative brain disease that can follow multiple hits to the head, the National Institutes of Health said Thursday.
Questions of CTE came up immediately after Seau's body was found, with a handgun nearby, in the bedroom of his home in Oceanside, California.
CTE, a progressive neuro-degenerative disease, can result in Alzheimer's-like symptoms such as dementia, memory loss, aggression and depression, but it can be diagnosed only after death.
Seau's family donated his brain to the National Institutes of Health for research, and Thursday the NIH released a statement saying "abnormalities were found that are consistent with a form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)."
According to the pathology report from the NIH, five researchers -- two NIH neuropathologists and three independent experts -- examined slides of Seau's brain and all confirmed that there were signs consistent with CTE. None of the researchers were aware of the identity of the brain when they initially looked at it.
Seau was another in a line of high-profile NFL players -- along with Dave Duerson, Shane Dronett and Shane Easterling -- who tragically took their lives and were later diagnosed with CTE.
A recent study reviewed the brains of 35 professional football players and found 34 of them to have signs of CTE. However, not everyone who is exposed to repeated head trauma would develop the disease, experts say.
The National Football League responded to the announcement of Seau's diagnosis with a statement saying, "We appreciate the Seau family's cooperation with the National Institutes of Health. The finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE."