Family Allows Brain to be Studied

4 May

In the aftermath of the suicide of Junior Seau the most pressing question was if the family was going to allow researchers to study his brain in-depth.  It has now been reported that the Seau family has agreed to this as Michael O’Keeffe wrote last night;

Two research groups — the Brain Injury Research Institute and Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy — made bids to persuade Seau’s family to donate his brain to them within 24 hours after the Pro Bowl linebacker’s death.

It sounds ghoulish for scientists to vie for a beloved athlete’s brain so soon after his death, but the researchers needed to let the Seau family know of their interest before it makes arrangements for his remains. “You can’t do this kind of test on a living person,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, the director of the Brain Injury Research Institute.[...]

“Either they get it or we get it,” Bailes said Thursday before the Seau family told BIRI it would donate Junior’s brain to the Boston researchers. Bailes said it could help researchers determine if genetics play a role in CTE, or whether concussions — as opposed to repeated, but less serious, blows to the head — are necessary to bring on CTE.

“This specimen needs to be examined,” Bailes said. “It doesn’t matter who does it. There are only two groups doing this kind of work.”

Although the BIRI – also headed by Garrett Webster, son of Mike Webster – may not have procured the brain of Seau they reportedly did have access during the autopsy.  Meaning that if the family agreed both groups could be working on this, not unlike the Andre Waters study;

The forensic pathologist who first identified chronic brain damage as a factor in the deaths of some NFL players flew to San Diego on Thursday to participate in the autopsy of former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau, two sources with knowledge of the case told ESPN.com.

The pathologist, Bennet Omalu, assisted in the autopsy conducted by the San Diego County medical examiner because of his experience with NFL players and brain injuries, the sources said.

The article on ESPN written by Mark Fainaru-Wata and brother Steve Fainaru also touched on the dynamics we spoke of yesterday regarding the Omalu and Boston split;

Omalu, Bailes and Nowinski once worked together on the CTE issue but split over philosophical differences. The clash between the two groups over the acquisition of brains for CTE research, particularly in NFL players, is an ongoing issue and was documented in an ESPN article last year.

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9 Responses to “Family Allows Brain to be Studied”

  1. A Concerned Mom May 4, 2012 at 08:16 #

    Doesn’t the BU group generally have another group review their work to confirm their findings, especially with such high profile cases? I appreciated Bailes’ comment, as he seemed to down play the rivalry between the two groups.

    • Dustin Fink May 4, 2012 at 10:12 #

      I don’t know if they have it confirmed, but I do know that the BIRI and BU group are not what one would call “best friends”…

      • A Concerned Mom May 6, 2012 at 13:01 #

        In her 2009 testimony, Dr. McKee mentioned that they had the initial cases confirmed (it’s possible that they don’t have every case confirmed now, or that they just might have high profile or unexpected cases confirmed, like 17-year-old Stiles).

        http://youtu.be/uoKkpLL10xw

  2. joe bloggs May 4, 2012 at 10:32 #

    Both Omalu and McKee are very capable and competent pathologists, I would doubt they will show conflicting findings.

    It would be nice that in a case of this nature that they jointly examine the brain so their will be no unneeded controversy.

  3. A Concerned Mom May 4, 2012 at 16:34 #

    Speaking of brains to be studied (can’t help but wonder how damage to frontal lobes was found/determined):

    http://news.yahoo.com/another-ex-nfl-player-had-concussions-donate-brain-211140350–nfl.html

    “A judge in Ohio on Friday sentenced former NFL quarterback Art Schlichter to more than 10 years in prison for a phony ticket scheme and granted his request to have his damaged brain donated to science after he dies.

    A court-ordered mental examination of Schlichter, 52, found damage to the frontal lobes of his brain, a likely result of some 15 concussions he suffered during a stellar career at Ohio State University and in high school, said his attorney, Steven Nolder.”

  4. A Concerned Mom May 4, 2012 at 18:14 #

    This article is a little over a year old, but it’s rather good (actually, it’s really sad – about Fred McNeill and his family – tough to think about what some former players and their families go through).

    http://www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/201102/jeanne-marie-laskas-nfl-concussions-fred-mcneill?printable=true

    “”Tia, now, about my brain,” he says, finally.

    “I don’t want to give it away.”

    “Your brain? Is that what you’re sitting here thinking about?”

    “Well, I don’t want to give it away to anybody.”

    “That’s for after you die, Fred,” she says.

    “Like I’m an organ donor on my driver’s license. It’s to help other people.””

  5. A Concerned Mom May 5, 2012 at 12:36 #

    http://youtu.be/seucQicwwZc

    “In this episode of the Massachusetts School of Law’s Educational Forum professor Holly Vietzke talks with The Sports legacy Institute’s Co-Founders Chris Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu as well as former professional athletes and spouses about their deeply personal experiences with brain injury and the evolution of treatment and awareness.”

  6. A Concerned Mom May 5, 2012 at 13:22 #

    http://youtu.be/Gt6AZAJzc8o

    “In this episode of the Massachusetts School of Law’s Educational Forum professor Holly Vietzke talks with The Sports legacy Institute’s Co-Founders Chris Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu as well as other doctors, former professional athletes, and their spouses about equipment safety, concussions in youth, and Second Impact Syndrome.”

  7. A Concerned Mom May 6, 2012 at 11:46 #

    “The family of Junior Seau is reconsidering its decision to allow researchers to study his brain for signs of damage caused by concussions suffered during his 20-year NFL career, Chargers team chaplain Shawn Mitchell told Reuters on Saturday.”

    http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/sports/pro/football&sa=NFL&eid=7895310

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