Junior Seau's Death After NFL: Is There a Brain Injury Link?


For reasons that remain unclear to experts, having one concussion makes a person more prone to further concussions. According to a study published in Neurosurgery last year, American football players who sustained three or more concussions were significantly more likely to develop depression and had were five times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

According to statistics from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, about 47 percent of high school football players sustain at least one concussion each season. And 35 percent of those who reportedly suffered from a concussion actually sustained two or more in the same season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 2 million brain injuries are suffered by teenage players every year.

While there is more concern over players and suicide, Whyte said sports are likely becoming less dangerous because of all the research being devoted to safety guidelines, proper equipment and the aftermath of a career of brain injuries.

In 2009, the NFL instituted new rules that require clearance from independent neurologists to allow players who suffered concussions to return to the field. The league also imposed stricter guidelines to reduce the number of helmet-to-helmet hits.

"The focus on sports safety has become much more vigilant about brain injuries and more strict with return-to-play guidelines," said Whyte. "But we certainly need more research to confirm whether these athletic-related injuries are leading to suicides."

ABC News' Sheila Marikar and Katie Moisse contributed to this report.

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