Doctors say Hernandez had severe case of CTE

Lawsuit claims NFL, Patriots hid dangers

BOSTON — Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, researchers said Thursday, and the lawyer for the former

New England Patriots star announced a lawsuit against the NFL and the team claiming they hid the true dangers of the sport.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had Stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.

“We’re told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron’s age,” attorney Jose Baez said.

Hernandez killed himself in April in the prison cell where he was serving a life sentence without parole for murder. Baez said Hernandez had shown signs of memory loss, impulsivity and aggression that could be attributed to CTE.

“When hindsight is 20-20, you look back and there are things you might have noticed,” he said. “But you don’t know.”

CTE, which can only be diagnosed in an autopsy, has been found in former members of the military, football players, boxers and others subjected to repeated head trauma. A recent study found signs of the disease in 110 of 111 NFL players whose brains were inspected.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court claimed that the league and Patriots failed to protect their players’ safety, leading to the disease that deprived Hernandez’s 4-year-old daughter, Avielle, of her father’s companionship.

“Defendants were fully aware of the dangers of exposing NFL players, such as Aaron, to repeated traumatic head impacts,” the lawsuit said. “Yet, defendants concealed and misrepresented the risks of repeated traumatic head impacts.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had not seen the suit and could not comment. A Patriots spokes­man did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The league recently agreed to pay $1 billion to retired players who claimed the NFL misled them about the dangers of playing football.

The “loss of consortium” lawsuit filed Thursday is independent of the class-action suit that began making payments this summer. Baez said it was the first of its kind.

“If we have to be groundbreakers in this area, it’s something we’re prepared to do,” he said.

Hernandez, who a week before his death was acquitted in a different trial over the 2012 shootings of two men, did not raise CTE in his defense at either trial because he claimed actual innocence.

“It’s something I deeply regret,” Baez said.