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Junior Seau's brain tissue to be studied, medical examiner says

More photos: Junior Seau | 1969 - 2012

Brain tissue from deceased NFL star Junior Seau has been sent to the National Institutes of Health for study to determine whether his brain suffered damage from his football career, the San Diego County medical examiner said Thursday.

The medical examiner provided no further details.

Seau, 43, died May 2 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest. He was found by his live-in girlfriend in their Oceanside home. He did not leave a suicide note.

San Diego Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell said after Seau's death, the football star's loved ones came to the decision to allow Seau's brain to be studied "to help other individuals down the road."

PHOTOS: Junior Seau | 1969 - 2012

There are similarities between the deaths of Seau and former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest last year. In a suicide note, Duerson had asked his family to donate his brain to the Boston University School of Medicine.

Researchers from that school later determined Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions, and that played a role in triggering his depression.

Dr. David A. Hovda, director of the Brain Research Center at UCLA, said the link between brain injuries and depression has been known for years. 

"When it happens to a person that I feel pretty confident has been exposed to repeat concussions, my first thought was, 'Did somebody do what they could to make sure this individual knew what his exposure was in terms of concussions, what the cost was going to be after he finished his career, and what he should look out for?'" he said in May. "Was the family notified? And did he get help if he needed it?"


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego and Sam Farmer

Photo: Junior Seau with the New England Patriots at Super Bowl XLII in February 2008. Credit: Karl Mondon / MCT

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