After Aaron Hernandez passed in 2017, autopsies have revealed that he suffered from stage III of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disease common in athletes or anyone who has a history of repetitive brain trauma. The post-mortem autopsy revealed stage III CTE, a disease usually seen in former players with an average age of 67 years old, yet Hernandez was only 27 at the time of his demise.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 99% of NFL stars who suffered multiple brain injuries during their careers showed signs of CTE. The study also found a correlation between CTE and significant behavioral or emotional malfunctions, often present throughout the lifetime of the person diagnosed with CTE.
The Hernandez family filed a lawsuit against the NFL and New England Patriots alleging the NFL was "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." And though Hernandez is responsible for taking Odin Lloyd's life in 2015, perhaps they both could have been protected had Hernandez's disorder been properly treated.
CTE Can Effect A Person's Impulse Control
Once considered a condition thought only to affect boxers, CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease. It affects people who suffer multiple concussions or a traumatic brain injury. In addition to memory loss and eventual dementia, CTE is also associated with other symptoms. For instance, people who suffer from CTE often have weak impulse control mechanisms. They experience depression and impaired judgment. Finally, aggression is common in individuals who suffer from CTE.
There's A Possibility That CTE Played A Role In Hernandez's Volatility
In the wake of Hernandez's conviction and his suicide, many asked the obvious question. Why would he throw away all of his success?
The symptoms of CTE present an interesting hindsight view of Hernandez's seemingly reckless behavior and personal associations. It's possible that CTE didn't play any role, and Hernandez lacked personal accountability and made mistakes, like many incarcerated individuals. However, the spotlight on the NFL, CTE, and contact sports, raises interesting questions about the NFL's responsibility to its players, especially high-risk players with known impulsivity control issues.
A Netflix Documentary Explores What Caused Hernandez To End Lloyd's Life
A three-part Netflix documentary premiering January 15, 2020, explores why Hernandez took Odin Lloyd's life and ultimately his own as well. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez tells the story of what happened when Hernandez was arrested and what led to his volatile actions and eventual conviction.
According to the documentary, "Aaron was absolutely operating on the edge," and a lifetime of trauma and head injuries contributed to the fallout that shocked the world.