Like many of you, we were shocked by the news, released Thursday, that the late Aaron Hernandezâ€™s brain showed severe signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative disease associated with concussions.
â€śWeâ€™re told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaronâ€™s age,â€ť attorney Jose Baez said.
He was only 27 when he died earlier this year.
Certainly, we all know the outlines of his story. He was a stand-out football star at Bristol Central High School and the University of Florida, before becoming a powerhouse for the New England Patriots in the National Football League. But his career ended abruptly when he was found guilty of murder, sentenced to life without parole and then killed himself in his jail cell.
What we donâ€™t know is how this new information fits into that narrative.
CTE has been linked to repeated concussions, a likely consequence of years of playing a contact sport, and involves damage to the brain in areas that control judgment, emotion, impulse control, and social behavior.
The obvious question, one with an unknowable answer, is: would Hernandez have become the violent person he was alleged to be without CTE?
And could this happen to another young boy who wants to play tackle football?
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court claimed that the NFL and the Patriots failed to protect their playersâ€™ safety. But what if the damage was already done? What if it started when Hernandez was a young teen, becoming a star for his high school team?
And what does that mean for the young men who hope to follow him to gridiron glory?