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Junior Seau death: Family to decide on brain study, coroner says

May 3, 2012 |  4:09 pm

Click for photos of Junior Seau

Junior Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, the San Diego County medical examiner concluded Thursday after a forensic autopsy including a "full examination of [the] decedent's body and organs."

In a news release, the medical examiner's office said it is "awaiting the the family's decision regarding the study of the brain for repetitive injury by researchers outside of the office."

Seau, 43, a star football player at USC and for the San Diego Chargers, was found dead in bed at his Oceanside home about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday by his girlfriend. A gun was found near the body but no note.

PHOTOS: Junior Seau | 1969 - 2012

The medical examiner did not set a specific time for the death.

Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Nelson did the autopsy, including the examination of the body and organs and collection of "appropriate specimens for laboratory studies including toxicology and microscopic examination of organs and tissues."

The issue of brain injuries among football players has been highlighted by the early death of numerous former players. Although Seau was not known publicly for having had concussions, that does not rule out the possibility of brain injuries incurred during his long career, specialists said.

PHOTOS: Notable deaths of 2012

Researchers at Boston University, leaders in the study of brain injury, have reportedly asked to examine Seau's brain, a decision that is up to the family.

Asked whether he had suffered concussions during his 20-year career, Seau's ex-wife, Gina, told ESPN, "Of course he had. He always bounced back and kept on playing. He's a warrior. That didn't stop him. I don't know what football player hasn't. It's not ballet. It's part of the game."

Seau, an All-American at USC and 12-time NFL Pro Bowl linebacker, played 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers and three seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He left the game briefly but then played with the New England Patriots for four seasons before calling it quits for good after the 2009 season.

After Seau's death was announced by police Wednesday, the San Diego Chargers urged fans to pray.

"Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now," the team said in a statement. "We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family.... The outpouring of emotion is no surprise."

At USC, Athletic Director Pat Haden called Seau "one of the greatest legends in USC football history. He will always be remembered by USC as the original No. 55."

"He was one of the greatest Trojans of all time," USC football Coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement.

Former USC football star Reggie Bush, who like Seau went to high school in the San Diego area, said on Twitter: "This one hurts San Diego! One of the greatest to come from the city."

Seau, who graduated from Oceanside High as a multi-sport letterman, is a member of the high school's Hall of Fame. Officials with the Oceanside Unified School District called his death “a huge loss.”

“Today’s passing of former Oceanside High School standout Junior Seau is a huge loss for his family, the Oceanside community and our district,” district officials said in a statement. “Junior personally contributed many positive things to those residing in the North County, most particularly his alma mater, Oceanside High School."

RELATED:

Seau's mother: 'Take me, leave my son'

Seau's death mourned by Chargers, local high school

Junior Seau sent texts to ex-wife, kids before killing himself

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Ted Dalsey pays his respects with his dog Second Chance at a memorial outside of Junior Seau's beach home in Oceanside. Credit: Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

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