Dr. Bennet Omalu Says CTE Drove Aaron Hernandez to Violence, Suicide

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2017

FILE - In this April 14, 2017, file pool photo, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez turns to look in the direction of the jury as he reacts to his double murder acquittal after the sixth day of jury deliberations at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. Massachusetts prosecutors on Friday, June 23, 2017,  appealed a court ruling that erased the former NFL star's murder conviction in the 2013 killing of a semi-professional football player. Hernandez's conviction inwas voided after he killed himself in prison. Under a long-held Massachusetts legal principle, courts typically erase the convictions of defendants who die before their direct appeals can be heard.  (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, Pool, File)
Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who spearheaded research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy, said he believes CTE drove former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez to "suicide and other criminal and violent behavior."

On Friday, TMZ Sports passed along comments from Omalu about both Hernandez and the connection between playing football and suffering brain trauma.

"I am yet to examine the brain of professional football player who does not have CTE or other forms of brain damage," he said. "And we have always known for centuries that if you suffer forceful and/or repetitive blows to your head in whatever human activity, you will suffer brain damage."

Jose Baez, a lawyer for Hernandez, announced Thursday the football player's estate filed a federal lawsuit against the National Football League and the Patriots organization for failing to protect the Connecticut native from brain injuries, per Ken Belson of the New York Times.

Dr. Ann McKee, director of the CTE Center at Boston University, conducted the examination of Hernandez's brain and discovered "classic features of CTE in the brain." Baez said lawsuits were also being considered against the NCAA and the University of Florida, where the tight end played college football.

Omalu told TMZ Sports based on his research into the issue and the findings announced Thursday, "it should not be surprising that Aaron Hernandez eventually committed suicide."

"If a child plays football, there is a 100 percent risk exposure to brain damage," he said. "No child under the age of 18 in today's America should be playing any of the high-impact, high-contact sports, and the big six are football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, rugby, boxing and wrestling. Let us keep our children healthy and make them play only non-contact sports."

Hernandez was found hanging in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on April 19. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital a short time later.

The 27-year-old former football player was serving a life sentence after being found guilty in 2015 for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. A Massachusetts judge erased the murder conviction in May since the appeal process remained ongoing at the time of his death.

In July, the JAMA Network released results of the latest information about a study into a potential link between playing football and CTE, which showed 99 percent of former players (110 of 111) were "neuropathologically diagnosed" with the degenerative brain disease.