Junior Seau: NFL Players Debate Safety as Family Delays Brain Donation

Seau was of Samoan descent; family says it will consult elders.

ByABC News
May 7, 2012, 12:57 PM

May 7, 2012— -- The family of Junior Seau, the NFL football star who died last week, is now reconsidering donating his brain to science, backing off their decision last week to let his brain be examined for signs of traumatic injury.

"The Seau family is currently revisiting several important family decisions and placing them on hold in order to confer with their elders," said Pastor Shawn Mitchell, the longtime San Diego Chargers' chaplain, in a statement. The Seaus are of Samoan descent, and elders are the most respected and highly regarded in a Samoan family. They are often consulted when making family decisions. It is unclear when the family now plans to make its final decision regarding the brain donation.

"They really want to do everything right," Mitchell said.

Seau, 43, who played for the Chargers as well as the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, was found dead last Wednesday at his home in Oceanside, Calif., apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Medical examiners ruled his death a suicide.

On Thursday evening, the family said they hoped that the brain donation would help others "down the road."

Seau's death has sent shock waves through the sports and science worlds, but experts have cautioned that it is too early to determine whether Seau's suicide was linked to potential concussions he likely experienced during his 20-year NFL career.

On Thursday, former quarterback Kurt Warner said on "The Dan Patrick Show" that he'd prefer his children not to play football because of the risks that have been associated with it in recent years. He backtracked Friday after Amani Toomer, a retired NFL player who appears regularly on NBC SportsTalk, called Warner "a little disingenuous" for his comments.

"I think Kurt Warner needs to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to this. Everything that he's gotten in his life has come from playing football," said Toomer Thursday on SportsTalk. Toomer said he would "definitely" let his own children play football.

Warner responded to the comments on ESPN Radio's "Hill and Schlereth" show Friday. While he said he is grateful for all that football has brought him, "At the end of the day, you know, I've seen how my wife looks at this game when I'm out there getting hit."

"And it's different when you put on a parent's hat," Warner said. "And, yeah, I want my kids to play and I want them to be healthy and I'd love them to have a great, long career, whether that's collegiate, whether that's professional…But as a parent, I can't avoid the fact that it's a dangerous sport, and it's a violent sport."

Jacopo Annese, director of the University of California at San Diego's Brain Observatory, said there has not been a definitive link shown between blows to the head and such disorders as depression, dementia and Alzheimer's, but he did say there is strong scientific and anecdotal evidence.

"However ghoulish it may appear to the majority of the public, the work that is conducted postmortem is essential to validate this hypothesis, because the important clues are at the cellular level and we can't see these with MRI, but we can with our microscopes," said Annese.

While research methodology has not changed dramatically, the questions have evolved, offering clues into the potential lifetime adverse effects of hits and concussions.