A new study indicates Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in April while serving a life sentence for murder, was found to have a severe form of CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma. In a news conference Thursday, Jose Baez, a lawyer for the former New England Patriots tight end, said Hernandez was "the most severe case they had ever seen" in someone of his age, which was 27.
Authorities performed an autopsy on Hernandez after he committed suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet, per People. His death came just five days after he was acquitted of double murder charges in the deaths of two men in 2012. His brain was released to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, where researchers are studying the connection between brain injuries and football.
Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the CTE Center at Boston University, examined Hernandez's brain. She found that he had stage 3 CTE. According to the New York Times, those who suffered from stage 3 CTE "typically had cognitive impairment and trouble with executive functions like planning and organizing," while those with stage 4 CTE, "the most severe version of the disease, had dementia, difficulty finding words and aggression."
CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously. Hernandez is the latest former NFL player to have been found to have CTE after committing suicide. Other players include Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, Andre Waters, Ray Easterling and Jovan Belcher. Researchers at Boston University previously released findings in July that revealed 110 out of 111 former NFL players examined had CTE.
Baez said he has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Patriots and the NFL on behalf of Hernandez’s daughter.