Confirmed: Tests on Aaron Hernandez’s brain show he had CTE, a football-linked disease which causes aggression and suicidal thoughts
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick does not talk to his players about the dangers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a football-linked brain disease that afflicted deceased former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and may have contributed to his death.
‘The whole medical questions are ones that come outside my area, so our medical department and medical staff, we cover a lot of things on the medical end,’ Belichick said during Friday morning’s press conference. ‘Not just one specific thing. We cover a lot.’
Belichick was not asked directly about the $20 million lawsuit filed by Hernandez’s family against the Patriots and the NFL after tests on Hernandez’s brain showed he had the most severe forms of CTE ever detected in someone of his age – stage three out of four, with stage four being the most severe.
The former New England Patriots star was serving a life sentence for murder when he killed himself in April at the age of 27.
Hernandez (left) talks with Tom Brady (center) and Bill Belichick (right) during a game in 2011
The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that the NFL and the Patriots should have educated Hernandez and about the risks of playing football with regards to CTE.
On Friday, Belichick insisted it’s not his job to warn players about the dangers of football.
‘Yeah, again, I’m not a doctor,’ said longtime Patriots coach. ‘I’m not a trainer. I’m a coach, so the medical department – they handle the medical part of it. I don’t do that.’
A review of regular and postseason injury reports released weekly by the Patriots during Hernandez’s three years with the team revealed only one instance in which Hernandez was listed with a concussion.
Despite that injury, Hernandez played that week, making seven receptions as the Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens, 23-20, in the AFC Championship game on January 22, 2012.
Last month, Boston University’s research team sent shockwaves through the industry with an explosive report showing 110 of the 111 players’ brains they studied had signs of CTE.
This is Hernandez’s brain scan: It shows the classic features of CTE. There is severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain (top row). The bottom row shows microscopic deposition of tau protein in nerve cells around small blood vessels, a unique feature of CTE
Prosecution witnesses at Hernandez’s two murder trials painted a picture of a troubled man with a history of drug use and paranoid tendencies.
Brain researchers say these sound like the hallmarks of football-linked disease.
Among the deceased players examined, Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and Andre Waters all committed suicide, like Hernandez. Seau and Duerson both shot themselves in the chest with the expressed intention of donating their brains to scientists to examine them for disease.
As expected, tests subsequently showed that both men and Waters, who were all over the age of 40, had CTE. Hernandez, however, was in his mid-20s – with a far more severe pathology.
The disgraced star had a $41 million NFL contract when he was arrested at his home in June 2013 and charged with the murder of a semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
Lloyd was the boyfriend of Hernandez’s fiancee’s sister. He was found dead in an industrial park on June 17, 2013, riddled with bullets. Surveillance footage showed Hernandez at the scene an hour before, then arriving at home minutes after gunshots were fired.
In April 2015, Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.
While in prison, Hernandez was charged with another killing – a double murder committed by a drive-by shooting. But in April this year, he was acquitted of both charges.