Aaron Hernandez: Had Advanced CTE - NEP Sued

Rovin Romine

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The question of computing some types of damages (in the future) is interesting, given that football players main income is from football. It’s like if there were a multimillion dollar position open for chain smoking - it would be a steep climb to argue that cigarette smoking caused a loss of millions of dollars in earnings (from cigarette smoking.)
 

crystalline

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Why is it big news? Wouldn’t they still have to prove Kraft, the NEP, and the NFL were negligent in letting him play? I don’t see that yet. Regardless, it would probably be settled for a nominal amount if a judge would let it go forward.
It's big news because:

The most infamous murderer and criminal in the modern NFL had a brain disorder, made worse by football, that tends to create violent and irrational behavior.

It's not a far jump to say that playing football contributed to this crime.
 

crystalline

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Considering his criminal record, his drug use and the company he kept, it’s also not a terrible burden to surmise it had nothing to do with it.
It's likely football had something to do with it.

I'll give you that football is probably far from the whole story with Hernandez. But we have pretty good correlative evidence now that behavior changes are associated with the brain changes visible on pathology. There is a high likelihood that Hernandez's erratic behavior was at least partially exacerbated by the head injuries that caused his CTE, which was visible postmortem. I'd think you could find an expert to testify to that.
 

kenneycb

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And you could probably a lot more easily get experts who will testify the opposite or at least say there’s no definitive link between his CTE and the actions at hand. So, again, not that big of news.
 

crystalline

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And you could probably a lot more easily get experts who will testify the opposite or at least say there’s no definitive link between his CTE and the actions at hand. So, again, not that big of news.
You're putting your head in the sand, I'm sorry to say.

Hernandez had severe brain damage. That damage arises from head injury. That head injury happens in football.

From the story

At Thursday’s conference, McKee flipped through slides comparing sections of Hernandez’s brain with a sample without CTE. Hernandez’s brain had dark spots associated with tau protein and shrunken, withered areas, compared with immaculate white of the sample. His brain had significant damage to the frontal lobe, which impacts a person’s ability to make decisions and moderate behavior. As some new slides appeared on the projectors, some physicians and conference attendees gasped.
 

Papelbon's Poutine

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No one is disputing that football helped contribute. What we are saying is that convincing a jury that the NEP are responsible for his deterioration - to an extent beyond his football career before driving, combined with his drug usage and added to the extreme nascency of knowledge about CTE to begin with - is a high bar to get over. At the very least, the defense would seemingly be able to muddy the waters enough to keep it from being anywhere in the ball park of a slam dunk. What we discuss here and assume or concede isn't what would happen in a courtroom. And frankly, while a civil suit is "preponderance of likelihood" (or whatever the term is) as opposed to "burden of proof", far too much is unknown about the condition itself, when the major damage was done and what contributing factors may have exacerbated it. Expert testimony likely isn't enough, in part because there aren't any experts at this point.
 

ALiveH

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IANAL, technical question: why not sue the NFL? They set the rules and the protocols. Unless the suit alleges the NEPs didn't follow rules and protocols and/or ignored medical advice.
 

The Needler

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IANAL, technical question: why not sue the NFL? They set the rules and the protocols. Unless the suit alleges the NEPs didn't follow rules and protocols and/or ignored medical advice.
The estate is suing the NFL. And Riddell (the helmet maker). They originally sued the NFL and the NEP in federal court, but his lawyer dismissed the federal case, refiled in state court, dropped the Patriots, and added Riddell. Basically, he cribbed the complaint from the Adrian Robinson lawsuit.

https://www.scribd.com/document/348899614/Adrian-Robinson-CTE-Wrongful-Death-Lawsuit

https://sunbeamwhdh.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/lawyers-for-aaron-hernandez-re-file-cte-lawsuit-against-nfl.pdf
 

BaseballJones

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I don't really understand how all this works so bear with me.

Hernandez had severe brain damage. That damage arises from head injury. That head injury happens in football.
None of this is disputed, and I think it's crystal clear that his CTE came from football, not from some other activity. So him playing football was the cause of his brain damage. Let's even go so far as to say that this brain damage caused by playing football was what led him to a violent life.

Now, even if all that was true, how could Hernandez' estate win a suit against the NFL or Riddell? First, with respect to Riddell, Riddell is trying to make the game safer; they're not trying to trick people into thinking the game is safe while it not *really* being safe. They're continually developing new, safer helmets. How is the guy who is working his ass off to make the game safer responsible for the game being unsafe?

Second, the only way the NFL could be complicit (guilty, responsible, whatever word we want to use) in this is if they knew the game was unsafe, but told the players it WAS safe, right? If the NFL didn't know it wasn't safe, and the government gave the NFL approval to exist (which it does, even giving it the antitrust exemption), then how could they be responsible? If the NFL knew that it's a dangerous sport that could lead to brain injuries and Hernandez *also* knew it was a dangerous sport that could lead to brain injuries, but played the game willingly and voluntarily anyway (nobody forced him to play football), then how could the NFL be responsible? It's only if the NFL knew the game was dangerous for the head, and kept that information from players, or if it somehow made the players play, that the NFL could be responsible. That's how I see it. Kind of what like got tobacco companies in trouble. It wasn't that smoking was a contributing cause of lung cancer; it's that they KNEW it did, but hid that information, so they were basically deceiving their customers.

Now, unfortunately for the NFL, in some ways, this is exactly the case. We have mounting evidence that the NFL understood that it has a massive problem with CTE and even manipulated research and hid data that would reveal the extent of the problem. I don't know the timeline however. Did all this take place before or after Hernandez played in the NFL? It's all fuzzy to me.

But that's the only way I could see Hernandez' estate winning, even though your point, crystalline, is spot on.
 

Bowhemian

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It's likely football had something to do with it.

I'll give you that football is probably far from the whole story with Hernandez. But we have pretty good correlative evidence now that behavior changes are associated with the brain changes visible on pathology. There is a high likelihood that Hernandez's erratic behavior was at least partially exacerbated by the head injuries that caused his CTE, which was visible postmortem. I'd think you could find an expert to testify to that.
I think you are correct that football had something to do with it. But how much? That is something we will never know. IIRC, AH had a history of bad behavior throughout high school, maybe even earlier. Was that before or after he started playing football? Was he involved in any other risky behavior in HS that may have caused the brain injury? Like perhaps, fighting? Maybe he fell off his bike as a kid and smashed his noggin. That could have contributed to the brain injury, right?

Like others are saying, there are a LOT of unknowns. I don't think it is as much of a slam dunk as some of you think it is.
 

EricFeczko

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I don't really understand how all this works so bear with me.



None of this is disputed, and I think it's crystal clear that his CTE came from football, not from some other activity. So him playing football was the cause of his brain damage. Let's even go so far as to say that this brain damage caused by playing football was what led him to a violent life.
I'll dispute it. While it is certainly possible, and there remains good arguments that hits to the head may have worsened his condition, I actually find it unlikely that NFL was the "trigger" for CTE at all.

The primary issue is that he had tauopathy at 27 years old. Except in rare cases of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), this is practically unheard of. Tau is a protein with a mostly unknown function, and when it becomes misfolded (i.e. in CTE, and in other dementias but not always) it starts to aggregate; whether tauopathy causes atrophy is unclear, but it is highly associated with it. However, it takes a long amount of time (i.e. years, often decades) before tauopathy becomes prevalent.
What this suggests is one of two things:
1) Wrong diagnosis, would have to include a differential diagnosis of FTD due to early onset -- and I don't know how to dissociate them here.
2) If this is trauma induced dementia (i.e. CTE). The pathophysiological process probably started when he was a teenager (e.g. prior to NFL).
 

crystalline

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I'll dispute it. While it is certainly possible, and there remains good arguments that hits to the head may have worsened his condition
[...]
You're confirming my point (and disputing something I didn't say). The bolded is what I said.
(What I said, from my last post above: "There is a high likelihood that Hernandez's erratic behavior was at least partially exacerbated by the head injuries that caused his CTE.")



p.s. I'm aware of the high-penetrance FTD forms. Note that the histologic signs of CTE are different than other neurodegenerative diseases.
 

EricFeczko

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You're confirming my point (and disputing something I didn't say). The bolded is what I said.
(What I said, from my last post above: "There is a high likelihood that Hernandez's erratic behavior was at least partially exacerbated by the head injuries that caused his CTE.")



p.s. I'm aware of the high-penetrance FTD forms. Note that the histologic signs of CTE are different than other neurodegenerative diseases.
I was responding to baseball jones when he claimed it was crystal clear that AH got CTE from playing in the NFL, which is, at best, a gross overstatement. That's why I quoted him and not you.

As an aside, CTE cases can have overlapping or non-overlapping signs with FTD (unlike Alzheimer's or parkinsons with lewy body which has a more specific pathological progression). It depends on the case, which is one reason I find CTE so frustrating (and possibly a factor in why few labs appear to replicate McKee's findings -- a huge problem for generating a formal clinical diagnosis). From what I can gather, AH's case also resembles a combination of FTD and possibly a sociopathic disorder, neither of which can be ruled out without a proper baseline that is impossible to acquire. Furthermore, evidence of a tauopathy prior to 40 may actually be a sign it is something other than CTE. AH is a weird clinical case, and this jumping on a formal diagnosis is putting the cart before the horse.

IANAL, so I have no clue how this plays in court. I agree with you that harm from the NFL probably exists. I think there is little question that getting hit in the head may cause progression of neural degeneration -- the CTE has been a rallying cause because, well, people use social information (as opposed to reason, intelligence, or even empathy) to judge and behave.
 

crystalline

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"Furthermore, evidence of a tauopathy prior to 40 may actually be a sign it is something other than CTE."

I don't see it that way.
(A). While there is some overlap, FTD and CTE signs are quite often distinguishable. (B) Knowledge of genetic markers for FTD, esp. early onset FTD, is quite good and advancing rapidly.
 

EricFeczko

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"Furthermore, evidence of a tauopathy prior to 40 may actually be a sign it is something other than CTE."

I don't see it that way.
(A). While there is some overlap, FTD and CTE signs are quite often distinguishable. (B) Knowledge of genetic markers for FTD, esp. early onset FTD, is quite good and advancing rapidly.
Biological knowledge is not the same as a clinical diagnosis. Research diagnostic criteria are not always clinically dissociable. In this specific case, you literally know shit. As do I. The reason is because genetic markers for FTD (or anything really) almost certainly vary by genetic ancestry lines; AFAIK the incredibly vast majorty of cases are of european ancestry.

The scant slices I saw told me a different picture, I saw significant asymmetrical atrophy coupled with bilateral atrophy in mesial temporal and frontal lobes. I also saw expanded ventricles and possible subcortical atrophy. These signs can occur in a number of disorders. In fact, McKee's own research articles (admittedly its been a few years) admit that FTD and CTE cannot be dissociated with confidence.

I'm geniunely curious, how would you classify FTD from CTE with a positive predictive value greater than 50 percent of the time? What is the process?

EDIT: what makes this discussion even dumber is that whether AH has CTE is irrelevant to the question of harm via the NFL.
 
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DrewDawg

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https://sports.yahoo.com/aaron-hernandezs-defiant-days-prison-im-built-151804418.html

Hernandez once punched an inmate in the face for the transgression of staring too long at Hernandez in his cell. The inmate’s reason: he was a Patriots fan. The inmate was in the custody of a guard, and Hernandez’s assault set off a “Code Blue” that required the assistance of several officers and landed him in solitary confinement for two weeks.
Hernandez was sent a care package of two dozen honey buns in violation of prison policy; before officers could confiscate the buns, he ate 20 of them, saving the wrappers so he couldn’t be accused of passing them to other inmates. Guards denied his request to eat the last four.
In the 10 months he was in that prison, he was in solitary confinement for 4 of them.

In his 4 years of prison time, he was charged with 99 disciplinary offenses and 24 major incidents.
 

simplyeric

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Hernandez was sent a care package of two dozen honey buns in violation of prison policy; before officers could confiscate the buns, he ate 20 of them, saving the wrappers so he couldn’t be accused of passing them to other inmates. Guards denied his request to eat the last four.
This is simultaneously awesome and tremendously tremendously sad.
 

Van Everyman

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So, no discussion of this documentary? Like, even a single mention?


For my part I watched both episodes. It wasn’t terrifically done but had a lot of players – the biggest of which was his fiancé. I would have liked more about his family but they did a good job describing the two cases. The big things:

1) Hernandez’s lawyers confirm he was gay (one of his lawyers was gay and was a stone cold killer when it came to pushing back against the prosecution’s suggested argument that it could have been a motive). Yes we suspected this for a while but it being confirmed by his lawyer and notes to his ex-girlfriend who he wrote from prison is a pretty good get.

2) There’s some great stuff w his attorney for the second trial, Jose Baez (who I think Oxygen might be teeing up for a show), who really is impressive. I particularly loved how resentful Michelle McPhee—the epitome of a small-minded, racist ignoramus Masshole (anyone who grew up here knows this type of person)—is of this slick Latino lawyer cruising into town to absolutely crush the local legal brains in defense of this gay, mixed race drug-addled murderer.

3) Alas, she gets the last laugh. The strong implication is that Hernandez killed himself because of the Kirk and Callahan interview w McPhee outing him after the acquittal. On a related note, what a complete piece of shit those three are – I love Boston but they really are the worst of us.

4) Shayanna Jenkins, his fiancé. She was in this a ton and pretty forthcoming about a lot of it. There’s a lot of back and forth about whether she knew she was ditching the murder weapon when she threw out the box (she claims she thought it was marijuana). But you don’t ever quite get a sense of their relationship and how much she knew about his double life.

Overall, that was the problem w the show, I think. By holding on the sexuality thing for the end for the shock factor they don’t really discuss why he had this double life or how it might have played in his tough guy persona or drug use (the latter of which they don’t really get into at all). And despite all the good interview gets, there were some obvious questions that either weren’t asked of the players or were left on the cutting room floor. As a result, it felt kind of incomplete and a bit slap dash.

Did anyone else see this?
 

Van Everyman

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Not to be lost among all the sports: a big Globe exposé on Hernandez. Part One here:

https://apps.bostonglobe.com/spotlight/gladiator/foxborough/?camp=breakingnews:newsletter

Initially I thought this was yet another regurgitation of the story we already know: that he hung out w the wrong crowd and threw it all away, that Belichick and the sanctimonious Patriots should have known better and that his is a cautionary tale for everyone playing football.

But the first part at least has some eye opening quotes from teammates:

In 2011, Brady was caught on videotape speaking to Tebow, by then the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, after a Patriots game in Denver.

Tebow had tried to mentor Hernandez in college and later asked Brady for help. It proved no easy task.

“I’m trying to watch over Aaron and Brandon,’’ Brady told Tebow, referring to another former Florida player, Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.

“I appreciate that, man. They’re good guys,’’ Tebow responded.

“Yeah,’’ Brady said. But they’re “a lot to handle.’’
Receiver Brandon Lloyd, offering his most detailed account of Hernandez’s troubling behavior, said Welker warned him.

“He is looking at me wide-eyed,’’ Lloyd recalled. “And he says, ‘I just want to warn you that [Hernandez] is going to talk about being bathed by his mother. He’s going to have his genitalia out in front of you while you’re sitting on your stool. He’s going to talk about gay sex. Just do your best to ignore it. Even walk away.’ ’’
Hernandez’s erratic behavior enraged Brady, the legendary team leader, one day when Hernandez was sitting out practice because of an injury. On the sidelines of the non-contact practice, called a “walkthrough,’’ Hernandez kept referring to Belichick as “daddy,’’ as he had all season.

“He was out at the walkthrough in flip-flops trying to run around,’’ Lloyd said. “He was laughing. He was loud. And Tom keeps it serious in the walkthrough. And Tom says, ‘Shut the f— up. Get the f— out of here.’ ’’
As their friendship grew, Fletcher said, he saw flashes of Hernandez’s street life. He met some of Hernandez’s thug friends, watched detectives question him outside a bar in Boston for unknown reasons, and dropped him off at his Franklin apartment where Hernandez stored drugs and ammunition. Hernandez called it his “side place.’’

Fletcher said he was not alone among Patriots who saw Hernandez consorting with his ex-convict cronies from Bristol.

Hernandez kept close ties with friends back in Bristol, Conn., including some with long rap sheets. He hired at least two as paid assistants.

“I knew they were trouble,’’ Fletcher said. “Everybody kind of did.’’
And this retroactively awful quote from Gronk:
When Hernandez joined Gronkowski in the Twitterverse by opening an account in December of 2011, Gronkowski tweeted: “ooo look who it is…my partner in crime!!!@aaron hernandez follow him people.’’
 

Caspir

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This is also a podcast, Gladiator, and there's two episodes so far. The Globe's ridiculous article limit (and their savvy in blocking incognito tabs) keeps tripping me up from reading it, but I downloaded the first two eps of the pod so I am eager to listen.