SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The National Institutes of Health will study brain tissue from late Chargers great Junior Seau, whose suicide two months ago raised questions about possible long-term cognitive problems faced by football players due to repeated concussions, authorities confirmed Friday.
Seau's next of kin directed the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office this month to release the preserved tissue for further examination, according to Sarah Gordon, a spokeswoman for the local agency. Gordon said she had no information on the purpose of the tests.
In a prepared statement, the NIH acknowledged the transfer of the one- time star linebacker's remains.
"The National Institutes of Health ... is not directly involved in an analysis of (Seau's) cause of death, but physicians at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke conduct research on traumatic brain injury and have agreed to carry out an analysis of the autopsied tissue," the agency stated. "In order to protect Mr. Seau's children's right to privacy, NIH will not discuss the status of the tissue or any subsequent findings."
The affable and approachable Seau killed himself May 2 with a gunshot to the chest at his Oceanside home, shocking family, friends and legions of fans.
Research pointing to links between multiple concussions and serious depression among football players has fueled speculation that the 43-year-old Seau may have succumbed to despair brought about or worsened by such brain trauma.
Considered one of the best linebackers ever, Seau was chosen to play in 12 consecutive Pro Bowls as a Charger.