Hernandez, a convicted murderer, had a Stage 3 case of the degenerative brain disease according to Dr. McKee, something that was revealed in a lawsuit against the National Football League in an attempt to make sure Hernandez's de-facto widow and his child will be taken care of for the rest of their lives.
Hernandez's attorney, Jose Baez, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court on behalf of the former player's 4-year old daughter. "As a result of the defendants' conduct and the injury experienced by Aaron, Avielle Hernandez was deprived of the love, affect, society and companionship of her father while he was alive".
Hernandez was found hanging in is prison cell in April just days after he was acquitted of a double murder in 2012. Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; the conviction was voided because he died before his appeals were exhausted, though that ruling is itself being appealed. In recent years, research has uncovered evidence of a connection between CTE and certain contact sports, most notably professional football.
A lawyer for his family called it "the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron's age". The suit added, "On April 19, 2017, Aaron succumbed to the symptoms of CTE and committed suicide".
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Hopefully players continue to share their thoughts and experiences with as much honesty as Carter did, because no matter which side you fall on, the conversation is important - and we all still have a lot to learn. In 2011, his second season, Hernandez caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns to help the team reach the Super Bowl, and he was rewarded with a $40 million contract. The lawsuit seeks $20 million.
While not an excuse, one has to wonder if CTE was a factor in Hernandez's outrageous decision to kill Odin Lloyd and then himself.
"Based on characteristic neuropathological findings, Dr. McKee concluded that Mr. Hernandez had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Stage 3 out of 4, (Stage 4 being the most severe)", Boston University's CTE Center, where McKee is the director, said in a statement.
"Everyone, including and especially his family, is deeply troubled by this whole thing", Baez told reporters at an afternoon news conference on Thursday.
Hernandez stopped playing football at the age of 23. We still know very little about CTE as a degenerative disease, and we know even less about how to prevent it or treat it.