While he is more well known for his criminal court case and untimely death in prison, the study of Aaron Hernandez’s post-mortem brain scan has helped football players and coaches get a better idea of what actually happens to the brain after multiple concussions. At just 27 years old, the tight end for the New England Patriots’ brain scan shows that he had the most extreme case of brain damage from multiple concussions than anyone else in his age group.
In fact, it was determined that his scan could be compared to that of someone who was 46 years old when placed against 468 other brains.
CHRONIC TRAUMATIC ENCEPHALOPATHY
The results of the CTE study, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, showed that Aaron had several spots in the brain that were quite dark, indicating damage. When looking at the organ, these areas appeared to have contracted and shriveled up, similarly to the way a raisin would.
THE BRAIN IS DIVIDED INTO SECTIONS
The part of your brain that controls the way you think and behave, the frontal lobe, had received damage so severe that many of participants of the CTE study were quite shocked. While there isn’t any way to speak to Aaron about the “why’s” of some of his decisions, the damage presented could very well have had a part in his ability to control his anger, aggression, and impulses.
It was also discovered that Aaron was already predisposed to certain types of degenerative diseases because of a genetic variable in his DNA; this extra variable coupled with the degenerative damage of being hit over and over while playing made a major difference in the amount of information the participants were able to collect on the study regarding pathological issues.
Specifically, areas such as the hippocampus, the amygdala and the fornix are all responsible for memory, social behavior and problem solving were all shown to have damage from the inside of the brain that would not have been otherwise exposed.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR FOOTBALL
Some of the changes that have been made to padding and helmets over time have helped to reduce the helmet g-force impact players experience. However, it doesn’t change the issue of the brain bouncing off the inside the skull when a player is brought to the ground by the full force of another person.
Rules have been changed in the sense that more penalties have been enforced in regard to the way one-person tackles another, however, the true issue lies in the physics of the sport. Recently, kickoff points have been moved up the 35-yard line in order to prevent players from gaining too much momentum as they move in for a tackle; this is where the majority of injuries between players and the ground occur.
While not everyone supports the rule change as they feel it would change the way plays are made and would definitely affect scoring, players are far less likely to see head and neck injuries in football.