Aaron Hernandez had the most severe CTE ever for someone of his age
Aaron Hernandez is a name that has gone down in football infamy.
Once a celebrated member of the New England Patriots, Hernandez has since fallen from grace over the course of two massively-publicized murder trials. Hernandez was arrested in 2013 for the murder of Odin Lloyd, his brother-in-law, and was convicted in 2015, ending his career with life in prison. He was acquitted in 2017 for an additional double-murder, but committed suicide in prison, sparing himself any sentences stemming from Lloyd's murder.
In the wake of his death, a press conference was held about the state of Hernandez's brain. Now, as of last Thursday, Boston medical researchers have officially disclosed that the 27-year-old ex-football star had Stage 3 CTE. CTE only has 4 stages, and the level of damage from concussive trauma in Hernandez's brain was noted to be extremely unique. No one else under the age of 46 has suffered such extensive CTE.
Jose Baez, Hernandez's lawyer, has filed a lawsuit against the NFL for failing to foresee, treat or prevent CTE in Hernandez. The disease is caused by concussive trauma to the head, the kind which is regularly sustained while playing in the NFL. A chill may come over the NFL in coming years, as the cost of a season's worth of games may very well be the physical safety of many players' brains. Of course, those who play and are comfortable with the risk should be allowed to make their choices.
Researcher at Boston University, Anne McKee, said:
"There is a concern that we're seeing accelerated disease in young athletes. Whether or not that's because they're playing more aggressively or if they're starting at younger ages, we don't know. But we are seeing ravages of this disease, in this specific example, of a young person."
McKee also said that genetic factors could have contributed to Hernandez's case. However, one narrative that has arisen in the wake of his CTE results is the notion that his violence and aggression has been a result of CTE. This can not be proven, and it would be foolish to exonerate or show mercy to a man convicted of murder under the faulty premise that he was not in control of his own behavior.
McKee warned: "We can't take the pathology and explain the behavior, but we can say collectively that individuals with CTE of this severity have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, aggression, often emotional volatility, and rage behavior."
Still, it takes an extra level of decision-making to actually commit a murder. Certainly, though, the NFL should instate safeguards and psychological testing to understand ahead of time when a player is showing symptoms of advanced CTE, especially if their behavior has become more impulsive and volatile.
Do you think Americans would allow CTE to change the rules of their favorite game? It's unlikely. Many of the players, even understanding the risk, would not want to abandon their teams and their careers. Some jobs are more dangerous than others, and for massive contracts and fame, millions of Americans would risk head injury as a cost of doing business.