Junior Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the San Diego County Medical Examiner confirmed on Thursday.
The medical examiner’s office said in a news release it is awaiting a decision by Seau’s family to release the deceased linebacker’s brain for study. Boston University researchers reportedly have requested an opportunity to examine Seau’s brain to further its study of the brain ailment Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Deputy medical examiner Craig Nelson conducted the autopsy, which included a full examination of Seau’s body and organs, county spokesman Sarah Gordon said in a news release.
Seau was found Wednesday morning at his home in Oceanside, Calif. Medical workers called to the scene by Seau’s girlfriend failed to resuscitate him.
A final report from the medical examiner — which includes lab test on tissues — could take up to 90 days to complete.
Seau’s ex-wife, Gina, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Seau sustained concussions during his 20-year career. She said she didn’t know if the effects of concussions contributed to Seau’s death.
Seau’s death follows the suicide last year of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest. 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 past year — died last month at age 62. His wife has said he suffered from depression and dementia after taking years of hits.
Seau is not known to have been a plaintiff in the concussion litigation.
Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy has analyzed the brains of dozens of former athletes, including Duerson’s.
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.
”It is our policy to not discuss any completed, ongoing or potential research cases unless at the specific request of family members,” according to a statement released by the center. ”Our primary goal is to learn more about the long-term effects of repetitive brain trauma by conducting meaningful scientific research. At this time our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Seau’s family, his many friends and former teammates.”