Netflix just released “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez,” a three-part documentary that delves into the turbulent life and death of the former New England Patriot tight end. After his death, Hernandez was diagnosed with advanced chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a dementia-like degenerative brain disease caused by repeated concussions. Several former NFL football players have been posthumously diagnosed with the condition.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) may result from a blow to the head from repeated concussions, as well as severe head injuries. While the physical injury related to head trauma may be diagnosed visibly, many people do not realize they are suffering from a TBI and may have what are often called “invisible symptoms.” These may include memory loss, depression, aggression, suicidal thoughts, even body temperature, and sensation issues.
Not realizing they are seriously injured, athletes may ignore early symptoms and continue to be subjected to further head trauma. The cumulative effects of these injuries can lead to permanent neurological disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers with the Boston University CTE Center have identified CTE in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. People with CTE have a buildup of a protein called tau in their brains, which, over time, can kill brain cells. The condition has been seen in patients as young as 17, but it generally takes years to develop following the onset of head trauma. Symptoms include changes in mood and behavior such as impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and paranoia.
According to an NBC News review, the film suggests that Hernandez’s life took a downward turn not only because he had CTE, but because he tried to hide that he was gay, and as a result of the “culture of football.”
The 27-year-old’s disease manifested itself in violent behavior that in 2013 stifled his promising professional football career when he was arrested and charged for the murder of semi-pro player Odin Lloyd. A year later, he was indicted in connection to two drive-by shooting murders in 2012. In 2015, Hernandez was convicted of Lloyd’s death and sent to prison. On April 19, 2017, just days after he was acquitted of charges in the 2012 double murder, he killed himself in his jail cell after writing the Bible verse “John 3:16” in ink on his forehead and in blood on his jail cell wall.
The documentary includes interviews with people who knew Hernandez as a polite high school football star before going pro. It also dips into some of the newly released transcripts from jailhouse phone calls Hernandez had with family and friends, as well as courtroom footage and interviews from those who knew Hernandez or Lloyd.
The film “examines the perfect storm of factors leading to the trial, conviction, and death of an athlete who seemingly had it all,” director Geno McDermott and producer Terry Leonard said in a statement. The NFL tight end had a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots when he was arrested for Lloyd’s murder.
Beasley Allen lawyers Mike Andrews and Stephanie Monplaisir have a particular interest in cases involving TBI. Mike is President of the Board of Directors for the Alabama Head Injury Foundation. Stephanie is the immediate past President of the Alabama Head Injury Foundation’s Montgomery Chapter.