Back in September, Aaron Hernandez’s lawyer Jose Baez held a press conference to talk about the results of a CTE study that Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center did on the brain of the former Patriots tight end. He revealed that Hernandez, who committed suicide in April, was diagnosed with "the most severe case they have ever seen" and that it was clear that Hernandez was dealing with the degenerative brain disease during his final days.
On Thursday, researchers from Boston University attended a medical conference and spoke more about what they found when they started studying Hernandez’s brain. They confirmed that Hernandez suffered from the most severe case of CTE ever found in a person his age, and they also discussed how the damage that was done to his brain likely affected his decision-making, his judgment, and his cognition. They also showed photos of his brain, and it was pretty clear that there was an extensive amount of damage done to it.
During the conference, Dr. Ann McKee, who is the head of the Boston University CTE Center, touched on just how important Hernandez’s brain could end up being for CTE studies as a whole. She called it "one of the most significant contributions to our work" and noted that it’s not often the center gets the chance to study the presence of CTE in someone as young as Hernandez, who was 27 at the time of his death. She also pointed out that BU researchers have never seen the Stage 3 CTE found in Hernandez’s brain in anyone under the age of 46.
According to the Washington Post, there were doctors who attended the medical conference on Thursday who gasped as Dr. McKee scanned through slides of Hernandez’s brain. Dr. McKee stopped short of blaming any of Hernandez’s actions on his CTE, but she did point out that those with Stage 3 CTE often struggle with many different aspects of their lives.
"We can’t take the pathology and explain the behavior," she said. "But we can say collectively, in our collective experience, that individuals with CTE, and CTE of this severity, have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses for aggression, emotional volatility, rage behaviors. We know that collectively."
Dr. McKee also pointed out that Hernandez had a genetic marker that may have potentially made him more susceptible to dealing with brain diseases than other people.
"We know that that’s a risk factor for neurogenerative disease," she said. "Whether or not that contributed, in this case, is speculative. It may explain some of his susceptibility to this disease."
Hernandez’s family dropped a CTE-related lawsuit they had filed against the NFL recently. There’s no word yet on if this latest information might lead them to refile it at some point in the near future.