This past Thursday, Boston University CTE Center director Ann McKee presented the specific findings of the brain examination of New England Patriots’ player Aaron Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez was serving a life sentence for murder when he committed suicide in his Massachusetts prison cell. The family donated his brain after his death. At age 27, his brain was determined to have Stage 3 (of 4) chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), with severe deposition of tau protein in the frontal lobes of the brain.
Dr. McKee noted, “These are very unusual findings for someone so young”, stating that this level of damage usually is found in players at least 20 years older. In a 2016 New York Times interview after the death of Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, Dr. McKee correlated long careers plus the increasing age of the player with the severity of CTE.
Dr. McKee confined herself to presenting the pathology, but the CTE Center’s research has associated CTE with aggressiveness, explosiveness, impulsivity, depression, memory loss and other cognitive changes. The CTE Center has pioneered research in the prevalence of CTE in NFL players’ brains [TTA 26 July] and is conducting longitudinal research on the relationship between concussive and sub-concussive head trauma and behavioral change [TTA 21 Sept] in the living. More details and video available here: Boston Herald, CNN. The September BU CTE Center diagnosis of Mr. Hernandez.
The importance to health tech is in the prevention, mitigation, and early diagnosis (not possible yet) of the end result of repeated concussive and sub-concussive damage, sustained in contact sports, military service (usually combat), and in civilian trauma from, for instance, car and industrial accidents. TTA’s long-standing coverage of CTE and brain trauma can be gleaned from searches on these terms.