When doctors determined that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was suffering from a severe case of CTE when he took his life in his Massachusetts jail cell, it was stunning even for the people who knew him best.
“Surprised in a way,” said Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, one of Hernandez’s closest friends. “But it's real. It definitely is. It's hard, because you can't see any signs of that stuff before and obviously, you have to be dead for them to test your brain for that. It's tough. But that's tough. It ain't something that's in the back of my mind, but it's tough for anybody. “
Hernandez was just 27 when he hanged himself earlier this year. He was serving a life sentence for murder at the time of his death.
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Hernandez’s attorney, Jose Baez, told reporters last week that researchers found that Hernandez’s case was “the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age.” Hernandez’s young daughter is suing the NFL and the Patriots.
Researchers have found a direct link between concussions and CTE, which makes those who have it act erratically, causing some to even take their own lives. Through a spokesman, the NFL cautioned against painting Hernandez as a victim.