Expert: Hernandez Case May Test Limits Of Brain Research

Sep 22, 2017
Originally published on September 22, 2017 5:59 pm

The family of Aaron Hernandez has filed suit against the NFL after it was revealed by an autopsy that the former Patriots player had advanced degenerative brain disease when he died. 

Hernandez, who was from Connecticut, was 27 when he hanged himself in prison earlier this year.

He was serving life without parole for murder.

An autopsy found that chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a disease associated with repeated concussions made his brain appear like that of a man in his 60s.

The suit does not link his crimes with his condition, but it blames his suicide on CTE, and says the team should have recognized cognitive impairment in pre-season testing.

But Dr. Anthony Alessi, a professor of neurology at UConn Health said ongoing research into the effects of CTE doesn’t yet support such a conclusion.

“We’ve not reached the point where we can make a direct correlation clinically between CTE and the actions of people while they’re still alive,” he said. “Whenever you take developing research and mix that with litigation, you’re bound to have some outcomes that are erroneous.”

Alessi said it’s significant that CTE can only be diagnosed after death.

The Hernandez case is bound to reignite controversy over youth football and concussion. Alessi urged parents to seek out teams that include a licensed healthcare professional.

“The data have clearly shown us that those teams have fewer dramatic injuries when it comes to concussion, those concussions are recognized earlier and there’s a full recovery in those people,” he said.

Copyright 2017 WNPR News. To see more, visit WNPR News.