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Seau's family sues NFL over brain injuries

By Barry Wilner

AP Pro Football Writer

LAST UPDATED: 07:08 p.m. HST, Jan 23, 2013

Add Junior Seau's family to the thousands of people who are suing the NFL over the long-term damage caused by concussions.

Seau's ex-wife and four children sued the league today, saying the former linebacker's suicide was the result of brain disease caused by violent hits he sustained while playing football.

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in San Diego, blames the NFL for its "acts or omissions" that hid the dangers of repetitive blows to the head. It says Seau developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from those hits, and accuses the NFL of deliberately ignoring and concealing evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries.

Seau died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May. He was diagnosed with CTE, based on posthumous tests, earlier this month.

An Associated Press review in November found that more than 3,800 players have sued the NFL over head injuries in at least 175 cases as the concussion issue has gained attention in recent years. The total number of plaintiffs is 6,000 when spouses, relatives and other representatives are included.

Scores of the concussion lawsuits have been brought together before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia.

"Our attorneys will review it and respond to the claims appropriately through the court," the NFL said in a statement Wednesday.

Helmet manufacturer Riddell Inc., also is a defendant, with the Seau family saying Riddell was "negligent in their design, testing, assembly, manufacture, marketing, and engineering of the helmets" used by NFL players. The suit says the helmets were unreasonably dangerous and unsafe.

Riddell issued a statement saying it is, "confident in the integrity of our products and our ability to successfully defend our products against challenges."

Seau was one of the best linebackers during his 20 seasons in the NFL, retiring in 2009.

"We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE," the family said in a statement released to the AP. "While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him to leave us too soon.

"We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations."

Plaintiffs are listed as Gina Seau, Junior's ex-wife; Junior's children Tyler, Sydney, Jake and Hunter, and Bette Hoffman, trustee of Seau's estate.

The lawsuit accuses the league of glorifying the violence in pro football, and creating the impression that delivering big hits "is a badge of courage which does not seriously threaten one's health."

It singles out NFL Films and some of its videos for promoting the brutality of the game.

"In 1993's 'NFL Rocks,' Junior Seau offered his opinion on the measure of a punishing hit: 'If I can feel some dizziness, I know that guy is feeling double (that)," the suit says.

The NFL consistently has denied allegations similar to those in the lawsuit.

"The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels," the league told the AP after it was revealed Seau had CTE.

The lawsuit claims money was behind the NFL's actions.

"The NFL knew or suspected that any rule changes that sought to recognize that link (to brain disease) and the health risk to NFL players would impose an economic cost that would significantly and adversely change the profit margins enjoyed by the NFL and its teams," the Seaus said in the suit.

The National Institutes of Health, based in Bethesda, Md., studied three unidentified brains, one of which was Seau's, and said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people "with exposure to repetitive head injuries."

"It was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth," Gina Seau told the AP then. "And now that it has been conclusively determined from every expert that he had obviously had CTE, we just hope it is taken more seriously. You can't deny it exists, and it is hard to deny there is a link between head trauma and CTE. There's such strong evidence correlating head trauma and collisions and CTE."

In the final years of his life, Seau went through wild behavior swings, according to Gina and to 23-year-old son, Tyler. There also were signs of irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.

"He emotionally detached himself and would kind of 'go away' for a little bit," Tyler Seau said. "And then the depression and things like that. It started to progressively get worse."

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Publicbraddah wrote:
People have got to be naive if they think continued knocks to the head over a period will not have good consequences. CTE has been given a whole lot of attention and rightly so. Athletes need to think this thing thru and if you're going to commit to a sport like football or boxing, you run the risk of CTE. For parents, keep this in mind when enrolling your child in sports. Nowdays, I see a lot of really young kids getting into football when their bodies haven't developed to the point where it can take that kind of punishment. In the end, it's all about choices and consequences. You gotta live with it.
on January 23,2013 | 07:14AM
Ulalei wrote:
If the family is suing on this issue, its obvious that the brain disease was hereditary
on January 23,2013 | 07:44AM
fairgame947 wrote:
Guess you've got it too! That kind of comment is totally unnecessary and with all the evidence there is there seems to be justification for such a suit. This is not the only one of this kind and there will be more.
on January 23,2013 | 08:18AM
hawaiikone wrote:
While the comment about the family was unnecessary the premise is accurate. Players are aware of the risks, and despite advice from the best of doctors, will continue to play. Fame and money are powerful antidotes for common sense.
on January 23,2013 | 08:40AM
Thank you. You cant get into a business or field of specialty and not know the potentials. You should at least have an inkling of intelligence or common sense would tell you that any number of jobs or activities come with some possibility of physical or mental problems. You make the calculate the odds, make your choices, now live with em', dont try and change the results after the fact and claim ignorance.
on January 23,2013 | 12:43PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Why stop with suing the NFL? Why not include in the lawsuit Pop Warner Football; the high school where Seau played and the college where he played? Seau and his family should have known people suffer all kinds of injuries playing football. If the judge has half a brain, the case will be dismissed quickly.
on January 23,2013 | 07:52AM
jussayin wrote:
Good point.
on January 23,2013 | 08:49AM
Why not take it 1 step further and sue your parents for allowing you to play football in the first place.
on January 23,2013 | 12:44PM
makule1957 wrote:
Since the family recognizes: "In 1993's 'NFL Rocks,' Junior Seau offered his opinion on the measure of a punishing hit: 'If I can feel some dizziness, I know that guy is feeling double (that)," the suit says." Maybe all the players Jr. hit should sue his family too. I guess this lawsuit suggests that pro football should change to flag football.
on January 23,2013 | 08:19AM
Shawn211 wrote:
WHAT?? Can you believe these people??? Even to the extent of sueing the helmet company for bad design??? Wow anything for fast money???? LIke :Publicbraddah wrote " It's all about choices and consequences" . You got that right !!!!
on January 23,2013 | 08:21AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I'm gonna sue the Star Ad for lowering my IQ through its articles.
on January 23,2013 | 08:43AM
jankenpo wrote:
I loved to watch Junior playing in the NFL. He was one of the best linebackers, playing the game with passion and great intensity. I loved to watch him place those big, crushing hits on the opposition.
on January 23,2013 | 08:43AM
eastside808 wrote:
Got to blame someone for allowing professional athletes to make a lot of money while aware of possible injury and now when injured saying that they didnt know it was going to be this bad. This is a game played by large people and through time and technology, will be as safe as possible, but there is always the risk of injury. To file a suit seems ridiculous because the NFL is making an effort to minimize exposure to CTE for their players.
on January 23,2013 | 08:47AM
jussayin wrote:
Well, I guess the NFL will have to change to flag football. No hitting allowed.
on January 23,2013 | 08:49AM
all_fed_up wrote:
I don't think anybody is twisting the arms of these guys that CHOOSE to play this violent game. Money and "fame" tends to overshadow common sense.
on January 23,2013 | 08:49AM
SueH wrote:
How ridiculous! They didn't have any problem with cashing his paychecks and spending the money he earned as a football player, and now they want the NFL to continue to pay even though everyone knows football is dangerous and can cause permanent injuries. Money grubbers!!!
on January 23,2013 | 08:57AM
PTF wrote:
If it was a choice between playing for millions of dollars or not play because of the risk of brain injury, 100% of the players would choose playing for millions of dollars.
on January 23,2013 | 09:17AM
toomuchpilikia wrote:
I feel bad for the Seau family. Suing will not bring back Junior. Let's end the NFL...This is not really what we want our son's to aspire to be. Out of control...business oriented...cheat if you can get away with it...hire to hurt other players...win at ANY cost....overpaid in every way. This business does not really take care of the employee. You are treated like a slab of meat! College football is where the real competition is ....very little swapping of coaches and players!
on January 23,2013 | 09:35AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Money Grab.
on January 23,2013 | 09:50AM
danji wrote:
All playerrrs know that the game is a contact sport and very physical. Knowing that why do they still want to play??? Because of the money . Let's ask our selves what is the right thing to do--continue the game as it is or restructure to rules to make the game a non-contact sport. In Seau case he was the hitter most of the time and if he used his head well so be it. I used to be a fan of the sport but as they change the rules I just don't like the game. Did everyone like the 2012 Pro-Bowl?? to me the people who went to the game deserve a refund for that fake game(can't touch the QB???) Rules??? all the helmet hit this year (that I saw) was not only the defensive players doing but even the ball carrier put his head down as he expects a hit coming. QB are sissys sliding befor they get hit--this is a contact sport. ALL THE PLAYERS ENJOY THE MONEY AND NOW THEY SUING THE NFL IS CRAZY.
on January 23,2013 | 11:08AM
dklmau wrote:
Will all the players that Junior hurt start to sue his estate?
on January 23,2013 | 12:31PM
mnsato wrote:
give me a break...
on January 23,2013 | 01:50PM
hikine wrote:
Injuries are part of the game. I betcha the family is feeling guilty for letting him continue to be a football player and that they played a part of his demise! Football is a dangerous sport and now they're just realizing it? The family probably enjoyed the fruits of his labor, which was the big $$$ coming in! Boxing is another sport that will cause repetitive brain injury, Ali as an example.
on January 25,2013 | 12:27AM
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