A CTE Diagnosis Does Not Excuse Aaron Hernandez

Disclaimer: The intent of this article is not to understate the seriousness of CTE; I understand that this is a real issue and being a football player for 16 years now, it is scary, and a real issue. This article is aimed at the people who think that Aaron Hernandez is automatically blameless because they found CTE in his brain.

CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), and it is “a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries.” CTE is a real issue in football, and it can occur in four stages. They discovered that Aaron Hernandez had Stage 3 CTE after his brain was studied following his death. Symptoms for Stage 3 CTE “include progressive dementiamovement disordershypomimiaspeech impedimentssensory processing disorder, tremors, vertigo, deafness, depression and suicidality.” There are also other stages to CTE that include rash and impulsive behavior and anger problems. Aaron Hernandez clearly exhibited many of these symptoms, however, there is one caveat in this CTE-blaming game. According to most studies, symptoms of CTE don’t start to surface or affect a person’s life until about 8-10 years AFTER they stop playing the sport that caused the head injuries that lead to CTE. Aaron Hernandez has not been out of the league for 8 years let alone 10. So to me, it is hard to believe that CTE had anything to do with his actions; maybe Hernandez was just that kind of person who already behaved badly, CTE or not. 

Aaron Hernandez had a violent streak and bad reputation long before his days with the Patriots, in the NFL, and probably even before his time at Florida. The Bristol, Connecticut kid had long been associated with the wrong crowd.

I never met Aaron Hernandez, so the only information I have is the stuff I’ve read. We could all be wrong about him. However, if the stories are true, they would explain a lot of his actions, even ones prior to the Odin Lloyd incident.

Hernandez had been in legal trouble years before the Odin Lloyd case. In 2007, he was in trouble for getting into a bar fight in Gainesville, and in the same year, he was implicated in a double-shooting in the same city. In 2012, he was in trouble yet again for a double-murder in Boston, though he was eventually acquitted because of unreliable witness testimony. In 2013, Hernandez got in trouble for another shooting in Miami involving Alexander Bradley, who considered Hernandez a friend. But it all came full circle when he was charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. Years of crimes and misdemeanors can’t all be attributed to a disease that wouldn’t have started manifesting at such a young age. We have to conclude that Hernandez was a troubled young man who grew up around and was influenced by bad people, and then he became one himself. 

The Hernandez family is now suing both the Patriots and the NFL on the daughter’s behalf, which is ridiculous. Even if the exact impact of his CTE is unknown, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that football involves concussions, which can leave permanent damage. As players, we assume this risk because we love the game. It isn’t a scapegoat when things all of sudden stop going our way. Should players seek help? Yes. Should we be suing everyone involved in the sport? No. The effects of football are public knowledge, and that it can have lasting impact not only on your brain, but your body as well.

Furthermore, Bob Kraft and the Pats gave Hernandez an opportunity to leave his life of crime behind. And they continued to support him in the years leading up to his arrest, even though he had previously been arrested and implicated in multiple crimes. Hernandez was given chance after chance to be a better man, and he didn’t take them. The Patriots already are honoring the rest of his contract to the family due to the acquittal following his death; going after them for more money is not going to heal a family’s grief or shame. I doubt Odin Lloyd’s family is going to see any money, and the sad thing is, they are the real victims here, not Aaron Hernandez or his relatives.

We need to stop making excuses for what people do to other people. CTE is a serious problem, but not an excuse for people to commit heinous crimes. Aaron Hernandez is the one and ONLY person to blame here. He chose to play football the same way he chose to commit murder. I’m certain that you would find CTE in the brains of plenty of other players in the NFL, and they are not going around shooting people. Please, for the sake of the victim’s family, stop making Aaron Hernandez out to be the victim now due to “unknown” consequences of football. 

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