Former Patriots tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez had “severe” CTE when he committed suicide in a Massachusetts prison, Boston University announced Thursday.
Hernandez’s lawyer said Thursday that he is filing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots on behalf of Hernandez’s daughter.
Hernandez’s brain, which was donated after his death, was examined by Dr. Ann McKee at Boston University. Dr. McKee diagnosed Herandez with Stage 3 CTE (out of four) and released images of his brain which show early brain atrophy and “severe deposition” of the protein associated with CTE. The disease is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head, which is why it often affects football players, hockey players and boxers.
Stage III CTE is “usually seen in players with a median age of death of 67,” Hernandez’s lawyers wrote in a lawsuit filed Thursday.
Hernandez is the latest in a long list of NFL players who have committed suicide and later been found to have CTE, including Junior Seau and Dave Duerson. CTE is also associated with a propensity for violence, as with former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who murdered his girlfriend and then committed suicide in the parking lot of the team’s facility.
Hernandez hung himself in his prison cell while serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. He had been found not guilty a week earlier in the 2012 double murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
SI.com’s Michael McCann wrote after Hernandez’s death about the potential legal impact of a CTE diagnosis, including whether it could be used by Hernandez’s estate as a defense in civil lawsuits and whether his family could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL.
A study released by BU in July found CTE in 110 of the 111 brains of former football players it examined, though that doesn’t suggest 99% of NFL players have the disease, since many of the brains were donated because the player had already shown symptoms of the disease.