Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player who died by suicide in prison in April, had a severe form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE.
Researchers who examined Hernandez's brain determined it was "the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron's age," the late athlete's attorney Jose Baez said during a press conference on Thursday, September 21, via The New York Times. Hernandez was 27.
The examination, which was performed by Boston University CTE Center director Dr. Ann McKee, showed that the former tight end's brain had stage III CTE. Stage IV is the most severe form of the degenerative brain disease, which can only be diagnosed posthumously and has been linked to the repeated head trauma found in more than 100 former NFL players.
Baez also announced on Thursday that Hernandez's fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts federal court against the Patriots and the NFL on behalf of the couple's 4-year-old daughter, Avielle. The suit claims the Patriots and the NFL 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," via TMZ.
Hernandez was released from the Patriots in 2013 after he was arrested for the killing of his friend Odin Lloyd. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Hernandez was acquitted of a 2012 double homicide less than a week before his death.
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