Hernandez suffered repeated brutal collisions throughout his career. Once in high school, he got knocked out cold and needed EMTs to carry him off.
“My body’s broke, like in the morning, I’m like what the fuck is wrong with me?” Hernandez says in an audio recording. “I’m like a grandpa. All my bones are sore. My body’s so fucked up, honestly, just from football.”
When he was playing, knowledge of CTE was just surfacing. Former Patriot Junior Seau had committed suicide, and his brain was determined to have the neurodegenerative disease.
Hernandez’s brain was also examined after his death, and Boston University researchers found “substantial damage that undoubtedly took years to develop,” saying it was “the first case we’ve ever seen of that kind of damage in such a young individual.” The side effects of such damage may include impulsiveness, rash decisions, and violence—all attributes known to define Hernandez in his later years.
Wiggins, however, calls it an “absolute cop-out” to blame Hernandez’s crimes on CTE. Chris Borland, who famously retired from the NFL after one season due to concerns about head injuries, offers another perspective on CTE and football.
“I think there’s a certain degree of hubris (with the NFL),” he says. “They own a day of the week. Football’s a religion…they’re not in the health business. They’re in the violence business.”
Whether it was Hernandez’s brain that caused him to commit suicide, or his sexuality, or depression over being in jail, or a motivation to provide compensation to his daughter and fiance (a whole other crazy part of this story), or something else altogether—no one really knows. This story is one you have to see to believe, one of the most captivating sports docu-series since O.J.: Made in America.
Check out Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez on Netflix.