Junior Seau's Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against NFL

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

The family of former NFL linebacker Junior Seau has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL, according to Barry Wilner of the Associated Press (via NBC Sports). 

The family of Junior Seau has sued the NFL, claiming the former linebacker's suicide was the result of brain disease caused by violent hits he sustained while playing football.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 4:10 p.m. ET by Tim Keeney

According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, the lawsuit says that Seau's concussions symptoms dated all the way back to the mid-1990's:

But the lawsuit contains a lengthy and detailed explanation of the symptoms Seau suffered in the years prior to his death.  The complaint explains that, as early as the mid-1990s, Seau was demonstrating “dizziness and other symptoms of concussion,” with a “noted change in his behavior and functioning.”  He began, according to the lawsuit, to become “erratic,” and he showed “emotional instability.”  The complaints refers to persistent insomnia dating back to the mid-1990s, and contends that he became “forgetful and unable to concentrate or focus.” 

---End of update---

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the California Superior Court. According to the report, the family blames the NFL for "acts of omission" and hiding information about the dangers that constant blows to the head can cause. 

Seau committed suicide last May by shooting himself in the chest. His death prompted many questions about the health and safety of longtime NFL players who suffered repeated blows to the head throughout their careers. 

Nearly one month after Seau's death, a report from David Leon Moore and Erik Brady of USA Today was released detailing some of the issues Seau was having sleeping. 

Friends say Seau had insomnia, and at least four of them say he often took Ambien. That's the best-known brand name for zolpidem, a prescription drug commonly prescribed for sleep disorders. Jack Cox, a spokesman for Sanofi, Ambien's maker, says 95% of zolpidem sold in the USA is generic.

Seau's brain was studied after his death to see what, if any, symptoms he may have suffered from that could have contributed to his health problems. 

The results of the study were released two weeks ago, with Seau's ex-wife stating in an interview with ABC News and ESPN (via ESPN.com) that his brain tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a disease that is commonly associated with repeated blows to the head. It has been linked to multiple symptoms, including memory loss, dementia and depression, according to Boston University.  The condition often develops serious symptoms that mimic Parkinson's disease, ALS or even Alzheimer's.  

This week, scientists at UCLA discovered proteins associated with CTE, marking the first time that living people (in this case ex-NFL players with at least one documented concussion) were found to have markers. Up to this point, all diagnoses of CTE were made at autopsy.

If finding signs of CTE in living athletes is indeed the "Holy Grail" as one of the UCLA scientists stated, Tuesday's report could go a long way toward helping solve a debilitating disease for former athletes.

Seau played 20 years in the NFL, missing a total of five games with the San Diego Chargers from 1990 to 2002. He also played with the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins before retiring in 2010.