Researchers have confirmed what many already suspected: Aaron Hernandez suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) before he died.
The family of the former Patriots tight end, who died by suicide in prison this spring while serving a life sentence for murder, donated his brain to scientists at Boston University who study CTE, a neurodegenerative disease commonly linked to head trauma and concussions. On Thursday, the school confirmed that Hernandez’ brain showed strong signs of CTE. His case was a stage three, out of a possible four stages.
Hernandez’ former lawyer, Jose Baez, announced during a press conference Thursday that researchers called the late 27-year-old’s condition “the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age.” Following the results, Hernandez’ family has reportedly filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots on behalf of his daughter.
The results come just a couple months after BU researchers found evidence of CTE in 110 out of 111 brains donated to their lab by the families of former NFL players, and just days after researchers linked youth football with behavioral problems. Those two findings may be related: CTE is known to affect the sufferer’s mental health, sometimes causing dramatic behavioral disturbances, irrational or aggressive behavior, and even dementia. A tragic number of sufferers, like Hernandez, succumb to suicide.
A CTE diagnosis is the latest chapter in a story filled with twists and turns, some continuing even after Hernandez’ death. Baez claimed in the days after his late client’s death that his brain was held illegally by the Massachusetts medical examiner’s office, instead of being turned over to BU per his family’s request.
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