BOISE -- After the death of a former NFL star, two former football stars in Idaho say there's more that needs to be learned about concussions, and much more to do to keep young athletes safe.
The family of former San Diego Charger Junior Seau will donate his brain for research into repetitive head injuries. He was found dead Wednesday at his home in Oceanside, Calif. He shot himself in the chest.
Idaho's Jerry Kramer, a former NFL great himself, had a variety of emotions when he heard about the passing of Seau.
"Sadness of course, for a young man who's life was cut short," said Kramer.
We don't know yet, if Seau's numerous concussions played a part in his suicide. But concussions can lead to chronic brain damage, which can lead to dementia and severe depression, which have been named factors in the suicides of other NFL players.
"We know a lot about concussions and we know a lot about the after-effects, but don't know a lot about how to care for them," said Kramer.
Research will be key. But so will increasing education, according to Matt Kaiserman, a former Boise State player who had to cut his playing career short due to a concussion.
"I think there's a lot of athletes here at the local level, at the high school level, at the college level, that really live with these injuries and don't know about them until it's too late," said Kaiserman.
The former Bronco spearheaded a new law signed by the governor this year which will help protect high school athletes from concussions. He says it's hard to tell how much damage a football player may have by the time they've finished their NFL career thanks to "shaking off" possible concussions in Pop Warner, high school, college, and the pros.
"Those are the most dangerous times, when someone just shakes it off, and they keep going, and there's no recognition of what just happened," said Kaiserman.
"I not only played with concussions but played with broken ribs, a broken thumb, 103-degree fever," said Kramer. "But it was primarily because I didn't want to let the team down."
But while not letting the team down, players at all levels could be letting themselves down by putting their long-term health at risk.
"I think that sports can have such a great impact on a young guy's life," said Kaiserman. "But with that, I think we need to educate ourselves, and be able to play these sports in a safer way."
Others say Seau's suicide might have been caused by depression after stepping away from his football career. Kaiserman said he felt emotional instability after he had to step away. But again, depression can also be a result of multiple concussions. We'll know more in a few months when the examination of Seau's brain is complete.
Around 1,500 former players are currently suing the NFL, saying the league repeatedly denied the connection between brain injury and concussions.