The NFL have been getting lawsuits and complaints for years over their lack of protection for players on the field but for the most part it falls on deaf ears.
On top of that, the connection between football and the number of suicides within the National Football League has been vague but what’s just been proven by neuroscientists at the National Institutes for Health may now make it clear for everyone:
*> A team of scientists who analyzed the brain tissue of renowned NFL linebacker Junior Seau after his suicide last year have concluded the football player suffered a debilitating brain disease likely caused by two decades worth of hits to the head, researchers and his family exclusively told ABC News and ESPN.
In May, Seau, 43 -- football's monster in the middle, a perennial all-star and defensive icon in the 1990s whose passionate hits made him a dominant figure in the NFL -- shot himself in the chest at his home in Oceanside, Calif., leaving behind four children and many unanswered questions.
Seau's family donated his brain to neuroscientists at the National Institutes for Health who are conducting ongoing research on traumatic brain injury and football players.
A team of independent researchers who did not know they were studying Seau's brain all concluded he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease typically caused by multiple hits to the head.
"What was found in Junior Seau's brain was cellular changes consistent with CTE," said Dr. Russell Lonser, chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University, who led the study of Seau's brain while he was at NIH.
Patients with CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, display symptoms "such as impulsivity, forgetfulness, depression, [and] sometimes suicidal ideation," Lonser said.
More than 30 NFL players have in recent years been diagnosed with CTE, a condition once known as "punch drunk" because it affected boxers who had taken multiple blows to the head. Last year, some 4,000 retired players filed lawsuits against the league over its alleged failure to protect players from brain injuries.
The NFL has said it did not intentionally hide the dangers of concussions from players and is doing everything it can now to protect them.
Gina Seau said she and her ex-husband expected physical injuries from playing professional football but never thought "you're putting your brain and your mental health at a greater risk."
Junior Seau, she said, was never formally diagnosed with a concussion but routinely complained of symptoms associated with concussions after receiving hits to the head during games and in practices in 20 seasons in the NFL.*
Now that there are facts, will the NFL finally address the issue head on?