Now researchers say Hernandez had been living with a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, and his lawyer has announced a lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots, alleging the organizations obscured the dangers of football.
According to Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, Hernandez had Stage 3 CTE. There are four stages.
“We’re told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron’s age,” said attorney Jose Baez.
Stage 3 CTE can cause cognitive loss, memory loss, behavioral changes, impaired judgment, depression, and violent mood swings. That his case of the disease was so severe is particularly shocking when considering Hernandez’s relatively short playing career.
He played in just three NFL seasons before he was arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of Hernandez’s fiancée’s sister.
Aaron Hernandez played 84 total games between college & the NFL, developing stage 3 CTE. For comparison’s sake, Tony Gonzalez played in 311.
— Mason Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg) September 21, 2017
Aaron Hernandez had advanced CTE. The NFL must address this devastating occupational health hazard for all its players. Immediately.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) September 21, 2017
“Defendants were fully aware of the dangers of exposing NFL players, such as Aaron, to repeated traumatic head impacts,” reads the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court. “Yet, defendants concealed and misrepresented the risks of repeated traumatic head impacts.”
As of right now, CTE can only be discovered through an autopsy.
In July, the Boston University CTE Center released a study that found signs of the disease in 110 of 111 NFL players’ brains donated to research.
The league has spent years and countless dollars attempting to deny or obscure links between NFL head injuries and long-term brain disorders. In 2004, the NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Committee published an article claiming “NFL players have evolved to a state where their brains are less susceptible to injury.”
In 2009, Dr. Ira Casson, then co-chair of MTBI, offered this testimony to HBO’s Real Sports.
The league recently agreed to pay a $1 billion settlement following a class-action lawsuit filed by former players.
Regardless of whether Hernandez was made a monster by CTE or he already was one, the league’s happily and knowingly letting CTE befall its players—who in turn often turn their inherited violence onto new victims—for decades is just as deplorable, if not more so.