Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, is a neurodegenerative brain disease that has Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, aggression, rage, and sometimes suicidal behavior. It is believed to result from repeated head trauma, which results in a buildup of the abnormal protein called tau that clumps in the brain. Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez was recently diagnosed with the disease by researchers at Boston University. Hernandez took his own life in April while serving a life sentence for murder.
The disease is categorized in four stages with Stage 4 being the most severe. According to Boston University’s analysis, Hernandez was found to have Stage 3 CTE, which is commonly associated with cognitive and memory loss, as well as behavioral changes and impaired judgment. Hernandez was found to have early degeneration of brain cells and large tears in the septum pellucidum, which is a central membrane of the brain.
Currently, CTE can only be detected after death but has been found in former members of the military, football players, soccer players, boxers and others who have been subjected to repeated head trauma. A recent study found signs of the disease in 110 of 111 NFL players whose brains were inspected after death. Researchers are currently looking for a way to detect CTE in the living with the hope of being able to treat it some day.
Jill Hamilton, Senior Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation
Jill Hamilton has been a Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation since 2014. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a Speech Communication Minor from The University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. Since working at the foundation, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition and The Metro Area Suicide Prevention Coalition, Nebraska LOSS Advisory Committee, The Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, is Chair of the Nebraska LOSS Teams Conference Planning Committee, and serves as the Outreach Coordinator for the Metro Area LOSS Team.