Last April, former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in his prison cell. He was serving a life sentence for murder and took his life just days after being acquitted of a separate double murder. After Hernandez’s death, his brain was donated to Boston University to be tested for CTE. Researchers have finally confirmed that Hernandez was indeed suffering from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain condition that may result in memory loss, violent behavior, and depression. It is believed Hall of Famer Junior Seau and former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who both committed suicide, suffered from CTE.
According to researchers, for someone his age, Hernandez had the most severe case of CTE they had ever seen.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 21, 2017
To illustrate how severe it was, Nathan Fenno of the L.A. Times tweeted out images of what advanced CTE looks like.
This is what Aaron Hernandez's brain looked like. The dark spots are the "severe deposition of tau protein" in the frontal lobes. pic.twitter.com/Zx0GKXFbPg
— Nathan Fenno (@nathanfenno) September 21, 2017
Dr. Ann McKee, a Professor of Pathology and Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and the Director of BU’s CTE Center, released the official statement with the original photos.
Based on characteristic neuropathological findings, Dr. McKee concluded that Mr. Hernandez had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Stage 3 out of 4, (Stage 4 being the most severe). This diagnosis was confirmed by a second VABHS neuropathologist. In addition, Mr. Hernandez had early brain atrophy and large perforations in the septum pellucidum, a central membrane.
This graphic shows the classic features of CTE in the brain of Mr. Hernandez. There is severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain (top row). The bottom row shows microscopic deposition of tau protein in nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTE.
Dr. McKee and the BU CTE team have extensive experience in the diagnosis of CTE and have contributed landmark publications on traumatic brain injury and CTE in athletes and Veterans. Her research has demonstrated that CTE is associated with aggressiveness, explosiveness, impulsivity, depression, memory loss and other cognitive changes.
We are grateful to the family of Aaron Hernandez for donating his brain to the VA-BU-CLF brain bank, located at the Jamaica Plain campus of the VA Boston Healthcare System.
The BU CTE Center will have no additional comment.
Although it may sound speculative, the findings raise questions about the effect CTE had on Hernandez, who had a history of violent behavior. It’s impossible to know for certain since CTE can only be diagnosed by deep examination of the brain after death. At the very least, the findings will continue to make CTE a hot-button issue among NFL fans, players, and owners.
[H/T] New York Times