Doctors at Boston University today released images of brain damage suffered by Aaron Hernandez, the deceased New England Patriots tight end jailed for killing his friend Odin Lloyd in 2013, and said it was the most severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy ever discovered in a person his age. Hernandez was 27 years old when he committed suicide in prison by hanging himself with a bed sheet in April.
As is normal with CTE, which can only be diagnosed post mortem, doctors sliced Hernandez’ brain to examine it for damage. The slides shown at the conference showed significant damage to the front lobe, which moderates behavior and impacts the ability to make decisions. His brain also showed dark spots associated with tau protein and shrunken, withered areas. “As some new slides appeared on the projectors, some physicians and conference attendees gasped,” the Washington Post reported.
That level of brain damage would have affected the deceased football player’s ability to make decisions and control his behavior. “Individuals with CTE, and CTE of this severity, have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses for aggression, emotional volatility, rage behaviors,” Dr. Ann McKee told the Boston conference, the Post reported. McKee is a professor of pathology and neurology at BU’s school of medicine and director of its CTE Center.
Hernandez had Stage 3 CTE. Stage 4 is the most severe diagnosis. Stage 3 CTE has never been diagnosed in anyone younger than 46, doctors said. Professional athletes, mainly football players and boxers, are believed to contract the disease after repeated concussions suffered on the playing field. CTE has become a major issue for the National Football League and its players.
Until the murder of Lloyd, Hernandez was a star athlete, recognized as an All-American while playing at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He dropped out before his senior year to join the Patriots. After his death, his family released his brain to researchers for signs of CTE.