The estate of the late and former New England Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez, has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the New England Patriots and the National Football League. The suit was filed following the discovery that Hernandez suffered from the degenerative brain disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The findings were uncovered by Boston University’s CTE Center during a posthumous examination of Hernandez’s brain. The disease is believed to develop when repeated blows to the head trigger a degenerative process that can cause aggressiveness, explosiveness, impulsivity, depression, memory loss, and other cognitive changes.
According to a statement from Boston University’s CTE Center, the 27-year-old football player “had early brain atrophy and large perforations in the septum pellucidum, a central membrane.” They determined that Hernandez experienced Stage 3 CTE, which they determined to be the most severe case they had ever seen for a person Hernandez’s age and is generally seen in players within a median age of 67 years old.
Attorneys filed suit in federal court in Boston on behalf of Hernandez’s 4-year-old daughter, Avielle. The complaint alleges that the league and the team deprived Avielle of “the love, affection, society, and companionship of her father while he was alive.” The complaint further asserts that the National Football League and the Patriots “concealed and misrepresented the risks of repeated traumatic head impacts to NFL players” and “needlessly delayed adoption of rules and league polices related to player health and safety with regard to concussions and sub-concussive head trauma.”
In response to the lawsuit, the National Football League has vowed to vigorously challenge the claims set forth by Hernandez’s attorneys. “Any attempt here to paint Aaron Hernandez as a victim, we believe is misguided. His personal story is complex and doesn’t lend itself to simple answers,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters this past week. The National Football League argues that they have taken measures to reduce the risk of CTE in football, including changing more than fifty rules that adopt increased frequency of sideline tests for players, as well as the banning of dangerous head-to-head hits.
In 2015, Hernandez was convicted of the June 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd. He was recently acquitted this past April on murder charges of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Hernandez hung himself five days following the acquittal inside his prison cell, where he was serving a life sentence for his Lloyd murder conviction.