The attorney for the late New England Patriots’ former tight end Aaron Hernandez announced this week that his client’s brain exhibited severe signs of Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Attorney Jose Baez gave a press conference Thursday, Sept. 20, after researchers at the CTE Center at Boston University diagnosed the debilitating brain disease by examining Hernandez’ brain after his April suicide in prison. Hernandez was acquitted of two murders but convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for the murder of former friend Odin Lloyd. The murder happened only 10 months after Hernandez signed a multi-million dollar contract with the Patriots.

The director of the CTE Center stated that the tight end’s brain had “early brain atrophy and large perforations in the septum pellucidum, a central membrane,” which is typical of the third stage of CTE. The fourth — and final — stage is Stage 4, the most severe.

Although Hernandez was only 27 at the time of his death earlier this year, according to Baez, researchers were astonished at the level of deterioration in such a young football player. Damage that severe is consistent with former players who are 67 and almost at the terminal stage of the disease.

Attorneys for Hernandez’ young daughter filed a federal lawsuit in the Boston courts on the girl’s behalf. They seek a payout of $20 million from the National Football League (NFL) for depriving his daughter of her father’s companionship.

CTE is linked to repeated concussions and is commonly found in players of contact sports like football or hockey. The frontal region of the brain is damaged, which is the area that controls executive functioning like planning, organizing, judgment, memory, controlling impulses and social behaviors.

This ruling is a major blow to the NFL, and may trickle down to the National Collegiate Athletic Association if Baez decides to add them to the suit as well.

Did you lose a loved one to CTE after a career of pro football or another contact sport? If so, you may be able to also pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against any liable parties.

Source: USA TODAY, “Ex-Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE, examiners conclude,” A.J. Perez, Sep. 21, 2017