For the first time since announcing former NFL star Aaron Hernandez’s CTE diagnosis in September, Boston University neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee shared the findings from Hernandez’s brain autopsy on Thursday.
McKee and her team have examined more than 100 former NFL players’ brains for the neurodegenerative disease, formally named chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and found Hernandez’s case to be significant.
“This is the first case that we’ve seen that kind of damage in such a young individual,” she said, adding that the type of brain damage observed is usually seen in someone 20 years older.
Hernandez was 27 years old when he fatally hanged himself in prison in April. He was found to have had stage 3 CTE; stage 4 is the most severe.
McKee was careful to state that she couldn’t make a connection between his pathology (seen in the lab) and his behavior. “We can’t connect the dots,” she said. But she pointed out that the parts of his brain most affected by the disease included areas that controlled memory, judgment and emotion.