By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ The family of former NFL star Junior Seau will donate his brain for research into repetitive head injuries.
San Diego Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell said the family made the decision Thursday.
“The Seau family really has, almost like Junior, a philanthropic approach, where they always desire to help others,” Mitchell said in a phone interview Friday. “The purpose is not initially to discover anything about their son and what led to these tragic circumstances, but rather the betterment of other people and athletes down the road through anything that can be learned through the study.”
“The ultimate destination of the brain has not been firmly communicated at this time,” Mitchell wrote in an earlier email.
He said the family was not speculating as to whether concussions were a factor in Seau’s suicide.
Seau, a standout college and Chargers player, was found dead Wednesday at his Oceanside home. An autopsy concluded he shot himself in the chest.
Some have speculated that brain injuries from football may have played a role in his death, but there’s been no medical confirmation of such damage.
Seau’s ex-wife, Gina, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he sustained concussions during his 20-year NFL career, during which he also played for Miami and New England.
Mitchell said he never heard Seau complain about dizziness or headaches.
“With Junior, that would be so outside of his nature because he had an amazing threshold for pain,” Mitchell said.
Family members and friends have said they weren’t aware of any issues that may have led to Seau’s suicide. Police said no suicide note was found.
“This is not anything I thought he would ever do,” former San Diego Chargers safety Miles McPherson said.
A few weeks ago, a smiling Seau was videotaped playing a ukulele and singing while attending the spring game at Southern California, where he starred before being drafted by the Chargers in 1990.
Mitchell said that friends of Seau’s who were at his charity golf tournament a month ago said his “spirits were great.”
Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy has analyzed the brains of dozens of former athletes, including that of former Chicago player Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest last year.
While saying it was saddened by Seau’s death, center officials would not say if they have reached out to the Seau family or would be interested in studying his brain.
Duerson’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against the NFL, claiming the league didn’t do enough to prevent or treat concussions that severely damaged Duerson’s brain before he died in in February 2011.
Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who had joined in a concussion-related lawsuit against the league _ one of dozens filed in the last year– shot himself last month at age 62. His wife has said he suffered from depression and dementia after taking years of hits.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)