Scans Show Former NFL Star and Convicted Murderer Aaron Hernandez Had Severe Brain Damage

His family members said they plan on suing the league.

Scans of Aaron Hernandez's brainBoston University CTE Center

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Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in prison this spring while serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder, suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), his attorneys revealed Thursday. Hernandez’s family, who donated the brain to Boston University to be tested for CTE—a form of brain damage that is linked to concussions and even subconcussive hits—announced shortly thereafter that they would be suing the NFL.

Per the Associated Press:

CTE can be caused by repeated head trauma and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive difficulties. Hernandez killed himself in April in the jail cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for a 2013 murder. His death came just hours before the Patriots visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory.

CTE can only be diagnosed in an autopsy. A recent study found evidence of the disease in 110 of 111 former NFL players whose brains were examined.

CTE has been linked with repeated concussions and involves brain damage particularly in the frontal region that controls many functions including judgment, emotion, impulse control, social behavior and memory.

The Hernandez findings are notable because of how young he was—he was released from the New England Patriots in 2013 at the age of 24. For years the NFL denied that the sport contributed in any meaningful way to brain damage in its players. As recently as September 2013, when the NFL agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by 4,500 ex-players claiming damages from concussions, commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS that “there was no recognition that anything was caused by football.”

But a series of bombshell studies and investigative reports over the last decade uncovered that the league was not only aware of the possible consequences of concussions, but had even shelled out millions in disability benefits to some players found to have suffered brain damage. In one 2016 story, the New York Times compared the NFL’s handling of its health crisis to the tobacco industry’s coverup of the consequences of smoking.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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