Authors: Rio Sports
Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots star who killed himself in April while serving a life sentence for murder, was found to have a “severe case” of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the progressive degenerative brain disease that’s been linked to repeated blows to the head.
Attorney Jose Baez, who represented the former Pro Bowl tight end, said Hernandez’s brain was found to have one of the most severe forms of the disease in a news conference on Thursday.
CTE can only be definitively diagnosed after death. A recent study by researchers at Boston University and the Boston Veterans Affairs health system examined 111 deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research and found CTE in 110 of them, or 99% of those studied.
The ailment can be caused by repeated head trauma and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive difficulties.
Hernandez was found hanging in his prison cell while serving a life sentence without parole for the 2013 first-degree murder of his friend Odin Lloyd. He had a $40m contract with the Patriots but was cut by the team within hours of his arrest. Less than a week before his death, he’d been acquitted of an unrelated 2012 double murder that prosecutors said was fueled by his anger over a drink spilled at a nightclub.
He joins a list of former NFL players to have killed themselves only to subsequently be diagnosed with CTE, joining Dave Duerson, Andre Waters, Junior Seau, Ron Easterling and Jovan Belcher. Seau and Duerson deliberately shot themselves in the chest to preserve their brains for the ongoing research into the disease.
A former University of Florida star, Hernandez was one of the best tight ends in the NFL at the time of Lloyd’s murder. He entered the league in 2010, and in his second appearance became the youngest player in five decades to surpass 100 receiving yards in a game.
He was Tom Brady’s top target in a narrow Super Bowl XLVI loss to the New York Giants, catching a team-high eight passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
In 38 career games over three seasons, he had 175 catches for a total of 1,956 yards, a number that would have been much higher if not for series of injuries.
- In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.
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