Updated at 12:15 p.m. July 13, 2012
Junior Seau’s brain will be studied by federal scientists—a step toward determining if head injuries in his storied NFL career may have led to his depression and suicide.
According to U-T San Diego, son Tyler Seau and estate trustee Bette Hoffman signed the release two weeks ago that let the county medical examiner transfer the brain.
“My siblings and I looked at everyone who contacted us and made our decision based on who we thought would do the best research for everyone,” Tyler Seau, 23, said via text quoted by U-T San Diego.
But any findings won’t be released by the government, the agency says.
In a prepared statement, the National Institutes of Health acknowledged the transfer of the one-time star linebacker’s remains.
“The National Institutes of Health ... is not directly involved in an analysis of (Seau’s) cause of death, but physicians at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke conduct research on traumatic brain injury and have agreed to carry out an analysis of the autopsied tissue,” the agency stated.
“In order to protect Mr. Seau’s children’s right to privacy, NIH will not discuss the status of the tissue or any subsequent findings.”
Earlier, Sarah Gordon, a spokeswoman for the county Medical Examiner’s Office, said she offered a reporter a statement Thursday morning on whether the office still had Seau’s brain.
She wrote: “Brain tissue has been released to the National Institutes of Health for Study; we have no information about the type of study that will be performed.”
Gordon also noted that some media reports said “some” brain tissue was released for study by the federal agency based in Bethesda, MD.
“No reason to qualify with ‘some,’” she said Thursday.
The affable and approachable Seau killed himself May 2 with a gunshot to the chest at his Oceanside home, shocking family, friends and legions of fans.
Research pointing to links between multiple concussions and serious depression among football players has fueled speculation that the 43-year-old Seau may have succumbed to despair brought about or worsened by such brain trauma.
U-T San Diego reported Thursday that Seau’s sister Mary Seau was unaware of any authorization to release the brain.
“The last time we had a family meeting on this was at my parents’ house a week after the death,” she was quoted as saying. “My family agreed to do this to help other football players. But we haven’t had a meeting since then to authorize the release of the tissue.”
—City News Service contributed to this report.