The story of Junior Seau is tragic, and banal. On Jan. 9, the National Institutes of Health confirmed that the future Hall-of-Fame linebacker, who in May 2012 committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that has been connected to other athletes who died way too early after a career taking frequent blows to the head.
As The New York Times pointed out, “Researchers at Boston University, who pioneered the study of CTE, have found it in 18 of the 19 brains of former NFL players they have examined” since 2006. That’s what I mean by Seau’s death being tragic and banal. The man spent 20 years as an NFL linebacker and was never officially diagnosed with a concussion. Yet only three years after his retirement, he kills himself — tragic, because of what happened, and banal, because an awful lot of former pro football players are dying young or suffering from aftereffects of football-induced head injuries.