Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez suffered from the debilitating brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Boston University researchers announced on Thursday.
An examination performed by Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center, showed that Hernandez’s brain had Stage 3 CTE. Stage 4 is the most severe.
The examination of Hernandez’s brain showed “early brain atrophy and large perforations in the septum pellucidum, a central membrane,” the center announced in a release.
Jose Baez, a lawyer for Hernandez, said researches determined the CTE was “the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age (27)." He filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston on Thursday on behalf of Hernandez's daughter, claiming that the team and NFL deprived Avielle Hernandez of the companionship of her father.
Hernandez, who was convicted in 2015 of the murder of former semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd two years prior, was found hanged in April in his jail cell at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass.
He died soon after in a nearby hospital. The Massachusetts chief medical examiner, Dr. Henry N. Nields, concluded the “manner of death was suicide and the cause asphyxia by hanging,” according a news release.
CTE, which can only be diagnosed in an autopsy, 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.
“We are grateful to the family of Aaron Hernandez for donating his brain to the VA-BU-CLF brain bank,” the Boston University CTE Center said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.