Add Junior Seau's family to the thousands of people who are suing the NFL over the long-term damage caused by concussions.

ex-wife and four children sued the league Wednesday, saying the former
linebacker's suicide was the result of brain disease caused by violent
hits he sustained while playing football.

wrongful death lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in San
Diego, blames the NFL for its "acts or omissions" that hid the dangers
of repetitive blows to the head. It says Seau developed chronic
traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) from those hits, and accuses the NFL of
deliberately ignoring and concealing evidence of the risks associated
with traumatic brain injuries.

died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May. He was diagnosed
with CTE, based on posthumous tests, earlier this month.

Associated Press review in November found that more than 3,800 players
have sued the NFL over head injuries in at least 175 cases as the
concussion issue has gained attention in recent years. The total number
of plaintiffs is 6,000 when spouses, relatives and other representatives
are included.

Scores of the concussion lawsuits have been brought together before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia.

"Our attorneys will review it and respond to the claims appropriately through the court," the NFL said in a statement Wednesday.

Helmet manufacturer Riddell
Inc., also is a defendant, with the Seau family saying Riddell was
"negligent in their design, testing, assembly, manufacture, marketing,
and engineering of the helmets" used by NFL players. The suit says the
helmets were unreasonably dangerous and unsafe.

issued a statement saying it is, "confident in the integrity of our
products and our ability to successfully defend our products against

Seau was one of the best linebackers during his 20 seasons in the NFL, retiring in 2009.

were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate,
suffered from CTE," the family said in a statement released to the AP.
"While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing
days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain
disease that would cause him to leave us too soon.

know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a
message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge
its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player
safety, and make the game safer for future generations."

Plaintiffs are listed as Gina Seau, Junior's ex-wife; Junior's children Tyler, Sydney, Jake and Hunter, and Bette Hoffman, trustee of Seau's estate.

lawsuit accuses the league of glorifying the violence in pro football,
and creating the impression that delivering big hits "is a badge of
courage which does not seriously threaten one's health."

It singles out NFL Films and some of its videos for promoting the brutality of the game.

1993's 'NFL Rocks,' Junior Seau offered his opinion on the measure of a
punishing hit: 'If I can feel some dizziness, I know that guy is
feeling double (that)," the suit says.

The NFL consistently has denied allegations similar to those in the lawsuit.

"The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control
and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide
range of independent medical and scientific research that will both
address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at
all levels," the league told the AP after it was revealed Seau had CTE.

The lawsuit claims money was behind the NFL's actions.

NFL knew or suspected that any rule changes that sought to recognize
that link (to brain disease) and the health risk to NFL players would
impose an economic cost that would significantly and adversely change
the profit margins enjoyed by the NFL and its teams," the Seaus said in
the suit.

The National Institutes of Health,
based in Bethesda, Md., studied three unidentified brains, one of which
was Seau's, and said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of
people "with exposure to repetitive head injuries."

was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth," Gina Seau
told the AP then. "And now that it has been conclusively determined
from every expert that he had obviously had CTE, we just hope it is
taken more seriously. You can't deny it exists, and it is hard to deny
there is a link between head trauma and CTE. There's such strong
evidence correlating head trauma and collisions and CTE."

the final years of his life, Seau went through wild behavior swings,
according to Gina and to 23-year-old son, Tyler. There also were signs
of irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.

emotionally detached himself and would kind of 'go away' for a little
bit," Tyler Seau said. "And then the depression and things like that. It
started to progressively get worse."