Former NFL star and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez reportedly suffered from Stage 3 CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, at the time of his death.
Hernandez’s lawyer Jose Baez announced the diagnosis on Thursday. After the former tight end’s death in April, experts at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center examined Hernandez’s brain at the request of his family.
According to the Boston Globe, researchers there said that Hernandez had the most severe case of the degenerative brain disease that they had ever seen in someone his age. The disease is believed to be caused largely by traumatic and repetitive injury to the head, and is frequently seen among football players.
Last year, Journal of the American Medical Association released a study that had examined 111 brains of deceased former NFL players: All but one were found to have had the disease.
While CTE cannot be conclusively diagnosed until after death, numerous NFL players have reportedly experienced symptoms of the disease, which can lead to depression and can double the risk of behavioral issues, according to a study cited by the Boston Globe.
Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee acknowledged in an earlier interview with the New York Times that CTE studies can have “tremendous selection bias” as the organs are often donated to research institutions because the disease was already suspected while the patient was still alive.
Both Hernandez’s family and his fiancee Shayanna Jenkins have reportedly filed lawsuits against the NFL as a result of the findings. According to TMZ, Jenkins filed the suit on behalf of her and Hernandez’s daughter, accusing the league of keeping Hernandez in the dark about his condition.
The suit reportedly claims that the NFL and the Patriots “were fully aware of the damage that could be inflicted from repetitive impact injuries and failed to disclose, treat or protect him from the dangers of such damage.”
Feature photo: Associated Press