Aaron Hernandez CTE Diagnosis Asks NFL Another Horrible Concussion Question

Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who took his own life in jail in April, was suffering from severe brain degeneration when he died.

Hernandez's family announced the news late Thursday that Hernandez, who was serving a life term without parole for a murder conviction in a Massachusetts jail, had Stage 3 Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

The penultimate stage of severity of the brain disease was diagnosed in 99 percent of 111 deceased NFL players in a study conducted by Dr Ann McKee of Boston University and published in July.

McKee also conducted the examination of Hernandez's brain. A statement from the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which collaborates with Boston University School of Medicine to collect deceased athletes' brains for study, said Hernandez's brain was also showing early signs of shrinkage and "large perforations" in a central membrane.

Hernandez, who was 27 when he died in Souza-Baranowski Correctional Facility in Lancaster, Massachusetts, on April 19, was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft following a career at the University of Florida where he was named an All-American. In a three-year professional career with the Patriots he never made the Pro Bowl but formed a key part of Bill Belichick's offense alongside Rob Gronkowski.

Hernandez's later years became marked by violence and crime, however. He was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of the sister of Hernandez's then-fiancee and later wife Shayanna Jenkins. Hernandez was acquitted of the 2012 double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado five days before his suicide.

Jenkins has announced plans to sue the NFL and the Patriots in the wake of Hernandez's diagnosis on behalf of their daughter, Avielle. A copy of the lawsuit posted by the Boston Herald's Bob McGovern claims the Patriots and the NFL "failed to disclose, treat or protect" Hernandez from repeated brain injuries.

Jose Baez, Hernandez's lawyer, told the New York Times on Thursday that Hernandez had "the most severe case [of brain damage] they [McKee's team] had ever seen in someone of Aaron's age."

But Hernandez did not have a public history of diagnosed concussions as an NFL player. A report posted by Boston.com from the Associated Press in April notes he had just one diagnosed concussion in his three seasons that caused him to miss practice the week before the 2011 AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Patriots won 23-20 with Hernandez playing in the game, catching seven passes and running the ball three times. ''We're not suggesting anything,'' Baez said in April when asked if brain damaged had contributed to Hernandez's suicide. ''You go where the evidence takes you. We need to examine every aspect of this case.''