by Chris Haire
Almost as soon as the death of former NFL great Junior Seau became public, sportswriters and sports fans were all in a twitter about the cause of the linebacker's apparent suicide.
As a linebacker who repeatedly collided head on with his opponents, Seau likely suffered brain damage over the course of his 20 years as a professional football player. He may have even had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a debilitation condition caused by repeated concussions which causes dementia and depression. Or so today's line of reasoning goes.
Adding fuel to this theory, in February former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson, who suffered from CTE, died by suicide. Duerson shot himself in the chest so that doctors could study his brain. Like him, Seau also apparently died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
Meanwhile, last month, an ex-Atlanta Falcons player involved in a concussion lawsuit against the NFL killed himself.
That remains to be seen, but at the moment all we have is speculation and a desire among reporters, pundits, and fans to tie Seau's death to the current narrative, namely that nearly everyone who plays football will suffer longterm brain damage — and the longer they play, the worse it is.
Among those who are following this narrative with the most intensity are folks who either want to ban football or who seek to fundamentally change the nature of the sport itself. And then there are those who, of course, hope that the narrative will lead to a financial payout.
However, what we have here might not be a trend at all. Even though Seau's death seems indicative of an epidemic of sorts, what we likely have here is an unsettingly but statistically meaningless coincidence. After all, we're talking about three suicides out of every single man who has ever played professional football.
That's not to say the CTE is not a problem of concern. It certainly is. But we have to be careful not to prematurely attribute Seau's death to it.