What does Aaron Hernandez’s CTE diagnosis mean?
Researchers have discovered Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot tight end who was convicted of murder and committed suicide in April 2017 at 27 years old, was also living with a severe form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
“CTE is a degenerative brain disease commonly found in people who have experienced multiple head injuries,” says Dr. Melvin D. Wichter, a neurologist with the Neurosciences Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
While Dr. Wichter and researchers agree it’s not uncommon for athletes to have CTE, researchers are saying Hernandez had brain damage similar to patients they’ve seen in their 60s, and that “it’s the most severe case they have ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age.”
“CTE symptoms generally don’t present themselves until about 8 to 10 years after repetitive brain injury,” explains Dr. Wichter. “Some symptoms include confusion, disorientation, memory loss, impulsive behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and even depression or suicidality.”
At the moment, researchers are saying there is no direct link between Hernandez’s violence and the disease. Nevertheless, people are now wondering if the CTE was potentially a cause of Hernandez’s erratic behavior and eventual suicide.
According to researchers at Boston University, CTE has been found in more than 100 former N.F.L. players, some of who have committed suicide.
They also found that adults who played tackle football before they were 12 years old developed more cognitive and behavioral problems as they aged than those who started playing 13 years old and onward.
If your child is playing football at a young age, Dr. Wichter recommends you understand the dangers of playing football and that you know how to spot one of the most common injuries – a concussion. “If a concussion is suspected, your child should be removed from the game until cleared by a medical professional,” says Dr. Wichter.
- Loss of consciousness
- Short-term memory loss
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Trouble thinking or speaking
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About the Author
Jamie Bonnema, health enews contributor, is a specialist of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She earned her BA in communications from DePaul University in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and cheering on the Chicago Cubs.