According to published reports, Junior Seau's ex-wife, Gina, said the Chargers star suffered concussions throughout his NFL career.
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In a Sorrento Valley facility, human brains are being closely examined in the hopes of solving the mystery of concussions.
"We're looking for a sensitive way to detect concussions," said Dr. Roland Lee, radiology professor at UC San Diego.
Medical experts like Lee consider it sensitive because concussions can be hard to detect.
For example, while CT scans and an MRI revealed nothing in the brain of a 17-year-old football player after his third concussion, a new technique produced yellow spots.
Lee and other researchers have been using a special machine known as a magnetoencephalography sensor to do the detecting. The device can measure subtle changes in the speed of brain waves and the test is non-invasive.
The device has more than 300 sensors, and in about 30 minutes, it has a complete recording of a person's brain.
In the case of the 17-year-old player, the yellow spots translate into slowed-down brain waves -- an indication the concussion had not healed.
The UCSD study began as a study of military veterans six years ago. When the NFL Charities donated $100,000 in 2010, the study expanded to young football players.
The goal is a better way to evaluate concussions, during and after a game, and beyond the standard cognitive tests.
"A lot of times, they won't even remember taking [the] test, and they can perform it. They're saying, 'Keep me in the game, I'm fine,' but really they're not," said Lee.
Studies have shown football players who suffer three or more concussions are three times more likely to develop depression and five times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease earlier.
For more information on the magnetoencephalography sensor, go to ril.ucsd.edu
For information on the UCSD Brain Observatory, visit thebrainobservatory.ucsd.edu
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