Nobody really knows why former NFL linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide on Wednesday, but his family has taken a significant step toward finding out if punishment sustained over the course of his football career had something to do with it.
According to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Seau's family has agreed to submit his brain for medical research in order to better understand the role concussions may have played in Seau's behavior and decision to commit suicide.
This won't be the first time a former NFL player's brain has been donated for research, but it should be very helpful for researchers as they continue to try to fully understand the impact of concussions. Former Chicago Bears and New York Giants safety Dave Duerson committed suicide last year and requested in a note that his brain be donated. It was found that concussions were a huge reason for the mental problems he had developed.
There was no such last request from Seau, but both he and Duerson shot themselves in the chest, so you have to wonder if Seau's intention was to preserve his brain for this very purpose. Whatever the case, the Seau family should be celebrated for making a decision that will benefit the greater good and perhaps lead to even better protection against concussions in the NFL.
It would have been very easy for family members to remove themselves from the spotlight and to grieve quietly, but there is no doubt they wouldn't want to see another football player go through the same thing in the future. While there's obviously no guarantee this research will prevent future occurrences of depression and suicide among athletes, it certainly can't hurt.
Seau had recently gone through a divorce, so one would think that it was a contributing factor in his depression, but there is also a good chance there was something wrong with him anatomically that forced him to make such a rash and final decision on Wednesday.
I'm sure part of the reason why the family decided to donate his brain was so they could get some closure for themselves in one way or another, but it could ultimately help so many others as well. If the tests run on Seau's brain lead to regulations that help preserve the life of even just a single athlete in the future, then it will have been well worth it.
The NFL in particular has already taken great strides to prevent concussions and the effects that they cause, but absolutely every possible safety measure has to be taken. Concussions simply weren't fully understood for many years, but now that people in power are realizing the toll they can take on the human body, things are really starting to change.
Absolutely nobody is happy with the way Seau left this world, but if his brain study is yet another step toward proper player safety, then at least we can say his tragic decision made a difference.