Medical authorities release Aaron Hernandez’s brain to CTE research centre, ending surreal daylong standoff

Medical authorities release Aaron Hernandez’s brain to CTE research centre, ending surreal daylong standoff
BOSTON Aaron Hernandezs death was ruled a suicide Thursday by Massachusetts officials, who also said that his brain would be released to an academic centre that has researched the links between brain disease and football.

The ruling appeared to end a surreal standoff that arose a day after the death of Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who was serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder. Jose Baez, a lawyer who had represented Hernandez, called a news conference Thursday in front of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and accused the state of illegally withholding Hernandezs brain.

By donating Hernandezs brain, his family could be seeking to find if he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma that has been found in about 100 former NFL players. If Hernandez is found to have had the disease, the diagnosis could be used to help apply for money from a class-action settlement between the NFL and former retired players, or in other legal proceedings.

Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, impaired judgment, aggression, depression and suicidal tendencies.

For now, CTE can be diagnosed only in autopsies. Several former star players, including Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Andre Waters, committed suicide and were later found to have CTE. Although those players were all older than 40, the disease has been found in former athletes in their 20s.

The body of Hernandez, 27, was discovered early Wednesday, tied with a bedsheet to the window of his prison cell in Shirley, Mass. Joseph D. Early Jr., the district attorney for Worcester County, released a statement Thursday that said the cause of death was asphyxia by hanging.

Hernandez, who had been acquitted days earlier of a 2012 double murder, had been alone in his cell since 8 p.m. Tuesday, the statement said. His body was discovered about seven hours later, along with a Bible and three handwritten notes.

Earlier Thursday, Baez, who represented Hernandez during the double murder trial, said it was too soon to determine whether his death was a suicide.

We dont make that call, Baez said, until everything is done.

Baez said Hernandezs family wanted to donate his brain to the CTE Center at Boston University, which has studied the disease for years. The centre, which has an extensive brain bank, has produced much of the leading research on the disease and its link to repeated head trauma.

We had made arrangements for Boston University to come at 10 a.m. to pick up Aarons brain, Baez said, but he added that the medical examiners office had decided at the last minute to hold it longer. He also threatened to take legal action to force the release of the athletes brain.

State officials said the brain would be released in due time, and Earlys ruling came several hours later.

Hernandez was a rising star with a $40 million contract with the Patriots when, in 2013, he was accused of killing a friend, Odin Lloyd, after an argument at a nightclub. Hernandez was convicted of that murder and accused of a 2012 double killing. He was acquitted of murder in that second case just last week which made his apparent suicide all the more of a shock.

Baez said he hoped the study of Hernandezs brain would help add to the body of knowledge about CTE and shed new light on what exactly happened to him.

We need to leave no stone unturned, and we need to specifically do everything possible to find out what happened, Baez said Thursday. Why not? Doesnt everyone want to know?

Topics: NFL , Sports , Aaron Hernandez

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