Aaron Hernandez Found to Have Severe C.T.E. By KEN BELSONSEPT. 21, 2017 Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who committed suicide in April while serving a life sentence for murder, was found to have a severe form of C.T.E., the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma that has been found in more than 100 former N.F.L. players. A lawyer for Hernandez, Jose Baez, in announcing the result at a news conference Thursday, said researchers determined it was “the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age,” which was 27. C.T.E., or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, can be diagnosed only posthumously. Hernandez is the latest former N.F.L. player to have committed suicide and then been found to have C.T.E., joining Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, Andre Waters, Ray Easterling and Jovan Belcher, among others. Seau and Duerson shot themselves in the chest so that researchers would be able to examine their brains. Hernandez was found hanging in his prison cell. Seau, Duerson and Waters were all older than 40, while Hernandez is one of the youngest former N.F.L. players to have been found with the disease. In July, researchers at Boston University released findings that showed that they had found C.T.E. in the brains of 110 of the 111 former N.F.L. players they had examined. Baez said he has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Patriots and the N.F.L. on behalf of Hernandez’s daughter. Hernandez’s brain was examined by Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and director of the CTE Center at Boston University. She developed categories to describe the severity of the disease. Those with Stage 3 of C.T.E., typically had cognitive impairment and trouble with executive functions like planning and organizing. Those with Stage 4, the most severe version of the disease, had dementia, difficulty finding words and aggression. Dr. McKee said in a statement that Hernandez had Stage 3. The discovery of C.T.E. adds another turn in Hernandez’s meteoric rise and fall. After a standout career at Florida, Hernandez signed a record $40 million contract with the Patriots in 2012, when he was 22 years old. Just five years before, he had been working menial jobs in his hardscrabble hometown of Bristol, Conn., where he drove a $300 used car he bought with money borrowed from friends. Yet 10 months after he signed his contract, in 2013, the body of a friend who had been shot multiple times, was discovered. He was convicted of the friend’s murder, was accused and acquitted of two other killings from 2012 and became a stark example of out-of-control, off-field behavior by N.F.L. players. Even his demise was filled with turmoil. After Hernandez died, Baez called a news conference in front of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and accused the state of “illegally” withholding Hernandez’s brain. Hernandez’s body had been discovered the day before tied with a bedsheet to the window of his prison cell in Shirley, Mass. His death was later ruled a suicide. The findings may help Hernandez’s family if it chooses to file for an award in the class-action settlement with the N.F.L. Players who are younger than 45 when they are found to have C.T.E. can receive as much as $4 million. Those who died after the settlement was approved in April 2015 are not eligible for an award, but Hernandez’s family could argue for an exemption.