Aaron Hernandez’s Brain Donated To CTE Research, Finally Being Put To Good Use

I’m sure you all have been made more than well aware of the fact that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted of murder two years ago, committed suicide recently by hanging himself from the window in his cell using a bed sheet, an act that came just days after he was found not guilty of another double murder from an earlier date.

Fortunately for me, this is not an article about Hernandez specifically and the many implications and hot-button issues that narrative touches on. Instead I’m going to focus on the fact that his brain is going to be donated for scientific research into the study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, better known as CTE—in other words, brain trauma.

Hernandez was a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in the 2010 NFL Draft, the same year that they selected Rob Gronkowski two rounds earlier. Yet both of them were exceptionally talented, and it made for quite a bit of trouble for offenses on the field.

From 2010 to 2012, functioning as the Patriots’ second tight end, Hernandez caught 175 passes for 1956 yards and 18 touchdowns. That works out to roughly 60 receptions for 650 yards and six touchdowns per season, which is phenomenal production from your second tight end.

It’s also a large volume of work, seeing 260 targets in the NFL in just three years, at the age of 23, not to mention all the football in his past. That is quite a bit of opportunities to suffer head trauma. From my brief bit of digging, it seems as though he has only been officially diagnosed with a concussion once during his playing career, though that certainly does not mean it was the only one.

You may recall former Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, who died at the age of 26 in 2009 after falling out of a truck during a domestic incident. In spite of the fact that he had never been diagnosed with a concussion, study showed that his brain was similar to those of retired NFL players late in life who had been diagnosed with many.

Obviously, it should go without saying that we don’t often get the opportunity to study the brains of young football players, and for good reason—they’re alive. At least with our current level of technology, there is only so much we can learn about a person’s brain without actually opening it up.

Hernandez was a monster even if only parts of what have been ascribed to him are true, but perhaps his brain can finally be put to good use. I don’t lament his decision to take his own life, and I am grateful that his family has chosen to donate his brain.

I sometimes wish that the Pouncey brothers would use their brains more often when it comes to Hernandez. Both were seemingly very close friends with Hernandez while they were in college together, and that prompted them to don ‘Free Hernandez’ hats after he was arrested for murder. Both individually paid their respects to their old friend on social media after he committed suicide, which understandably may not look great for public relations to lament the suicide of a convicted murder.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Without much to add or niceties to pass along, I’ll instead choose humor, even in a dark time, in honor of Gene Wilder, a man whose recent loss we CAN lament:

    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Now that brain that you gave me. Was it Hans Delbruck’s?
    Igor: [pause, then] No.
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Ah! Very good. Would you mind telling me whose brain I DID put in?
    Igor: Then you won’t be angry?
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
    Igor: Abby someone.
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby someone. Abby who?
    Igor: Abby… Normal.
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] Abby Normal?
    Igor: I’m almost sure that was the name.
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain… into a seven and a half foot long… fifty-four inch wide… GORILLA?!!
    [grabs Igor and starts throttling him]
    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Is that what you’re telling me???!

  • Steelers12

    sadder story Aaron Hernandez or Lawrence Phillips

    i said Hernandez but my dad said Lawrence Phillips was sad as well but im too young to know about him other than a quick google

  • walter

    Is there a test for CTE while we are alive?

  • Jeff Papiernik


  • Jeff Papiernik

    So when his brain doesn’t show any signs of CTE, can we go back to saying he’s a scumbag?

  • Rick Williams

    My question is just because he has CTE, did that make him a thug-wannabe? His circumstances were his own doing or undoing. Blaming on CTE seems insulting to people who really are suffering from it.

  • nikgreene

    I hope no one would blame CTE for Hernandez’s acts. Regardless of his physical or mental state, he was responsible for his decisions in life. However, we still don’t know very much about CTE, or more generally how football affects a person’s brain. It is important as many football players as possible donate their bodies to science when they die.

  • walter

    He grew up a thug. Being drafted to a team so close to home was the last nail in his coffin. He may have had a chance to change his life had he went to a new city. But then again maybe not. Killing to him was a way of life.

  • walter

    His friendship with the Pounceys could have changed his life. But he fell back into his old life in his old town with old acquaintances.

  • Roger G

    Hernandez is finally “free”

  • PaeperCup

    They better not link his homicidal tendencies to concussions and playing football

  • Steel B

    Do they have a histological test for evil???

  • steelburg

    Not sure you can call him wannabe thug. He qualifies as a successful thug in my books and not a wannabe.

  • Functional MRI can detect some I believe. Nothing is as easy as taking a slice and looking under a microscope though.

  • dany

    Ok I may be wrong and only read the SD article not the link they provided, but I’m guessing they’re simply testing his brain for CTE and other similar abnormalities. The fact that he’s a murderer is a footnote in that area. They’re just testing the brain of a former football player

  • Matthew Marczi

    No need to stop.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s not necessarily just to see if he had CTE, but for broader research purposes. There’s a lot more we might be able to tell about the immediate effects of brain trauma from the brain of a 27-year-old than an old man’s.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I get the impression that he never ceased that life while he was in Florida.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m sure that’s what his lawyer will be doing, not that many people would care.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    That was an industrial strength burn you put on him Mathew 🙈.

  • Man_of_Bats_81

    I lived in the same group home Phillips did so i say Phillips because i know most group home kids dont stand a chance but he actually made it.

    I dont know what kind of childhood Hernandez had but i know Phillips’s was messed up and it saddens me that his demons got him.

  • Rob

    No disrespect Matt, but your opinion on lamenting his death, and who should or shouldn’t is far off base from what the point of this site is. You said you wouldn’t get into it in the article, and then immediately did. It was completely unnecessary.

  • Steelers12

    Wow deep, so u knew him personally

  • Man_of_Bats_81

    Nah he was a few years older so he was already tearin it up at Nebraska when i got there but they were always talking about him. He was a legend at that place

  • AustinTxStillerFan

    Title of article is in poor taste. I’ll be first in line to bash Hernandez for the crimes he committed, but you went too far. Take the high road – respect the human being even as you lament his failures. Dan Rooney would not approve.

  • dany

    True. In fact more people should do this, in general. Where can I sign up?

  • MintDragon

    Maybe the Pouncey twins can wear “DEAD HERNANDEZ” hats at their birthday party this year.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s a good question, and I wish more people thought like you. A good place to start I think would be the Brain Donor Project’s website.

  • Gautama Om

    Even if they found CTE, it does not excuse him for what he did (as his family probably wants).

    There have been players diagnosed with CTE and many more that are not diagnosed yet who have NOT committed the crimes that he did. CTE is no excuse for murdering innocents over senseless reasons.

  • dany

    Heh I’ve always thought about donating my body to science. A. Because I love Science, B. Because that way they take care of 80-100% of funeral costs. But donating my brain for these type of research is even better as is ensures it wont simply be used for an anatomy university course or something

  • walter

    Its been a while since I read his story but yea I guess he murdered in Florida too. Florida is not the best place to live either. I like to think that its possible to change a person that grew up in the ghetto. But some never change. In the old days thugs didnt play football but the money is so good it attracts all kinds.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Good man.