Christian Rodriguez, Assistant Sports Editor
Former tight end for the New England Patriots Aaron Hernandez, who had committed suicide in his prison cell last April at the age of 27, has been reported to have severe Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.) after extensive research.
The brain scan came as a surprise even to researchers, who for years have been studying the degenerative brain disease in deceased professional football players, due to the severity of Hernandez’s case.
C.T.E. is a brain disease that primarily exists among boxers and football players. According to protectthebrain.org, C.T.E. is a progressive degenerative disease which afflicts the brain of people who have suffered repeated concussions and traumatic brain injuries, such as athletes who take part in contact sports. It also triggers very violent behavior.
Hernandez was serving a life sentence without parole for the killing of a family friend, Odin Lloyd. It is now becoming a theory that C.T.E. could have influenced his actions when Lloyd was murdered.
In a recent study, the brains of 111 deceased NFL players were examined, resulting in the discovery of C.T.E. in 110 of them, according to the New York Times. Some bias is suspected in the study based on the concerns of family members who observed symptoms from the former players whose brains were donated.
Senior linebacker at Utica College Erik Lyndaker believes that football affects the brains of players.
“A lot of players say all the head hitting gives them crazy thoughts,” Lyndaker said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone actually acted on them like Aaron Hernandez did.”
Lyndaker says football is the “nature of the beast” and the players know what they sign up for. He also thinks there are ways to be safe as well.
“A good way to start preventing things like this in football is learning the proper techniques in your tackles,” Lyndaker said. “It is really important that you know how to tackle. It keeps you safe and the opponent as well.”
Senior defensive back Anthony Bierria-Anderson says he can’t say he’s surprised to hear about what happened to Hernandez and the case.
“You’re playing in the NFL for that many years,” Bierria-Anderson said. “I’m sorry, but it’s bound to happen.”
Bierria-Anderson says whether you are playing safe or not, there will always be a risk of something like this in football. He also feels that it is simple to prevent this as well.
“Learn how to tackle, that’s all I can say,” Bierria-Anderson said. “You see players all the time running out of control with their heads down trying to clear someone out but they don’t get that they are only hurting themselves.”
Head coach Blaise Faggiano feels that it is very sad that the players are making millions of dollars in the NFL to keep playing with the risk of a concussion while some even play through it.
“Playing with a concussion doesn’t give the brain time to rest,” Faggiano said. “It only creates a higher risk.”
Faggiano says that he had a player once who didn’t tell him he had a concussion and still played with it.
“No matter what sport you play, what you should learn as an athlete is that health should always comes first,” Faggiano said.
Faggiano says the key to preventing concussions in football is practicing safety of technique and making sure you rest properly.
The Utica College football staff provides the players with concussion helmets and concussion mouth guards if needed, according to Faggiano. The team also does neck exercises.
“I learned that a strong neck reduces the severity of a concussion,” Faggiano said. “If not prevent it.”