A BRAIN disease caused by blows to the head has been blamed for a string of massacres in which athletes 'snap' and go on murderous rampages.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is caused by repeated traumatic head injuries and has been found in former NFL stars and wrestlers who have committed murder.
WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, who slaughtered his wife and son, and footballer Aaron Hernandez, who executed his friend, both suffered from the disease.
In the case of Hernandez, he displayed increasingly paranoid and aggressive behaviour and was also accused of two other murders despite being a millionaire athlete.
OJ Simpson, accused and acquitted of double homicide, says he believes he has brain trauma from his NFL career.
Simpson allegedly murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in a knife frenzy in 1994 – a crime which he was later found liable for in civil court.
The footballer-turned-actor was jailed for kidnapping and robbery in 2007.
Autopsies on CTE sufferers show severe damage to parts of the brain related to problem solving, judgment and behavior.
The disease – which causes dementia, memory loss, personality changes and erratic outbursts – has made headlines once again after former NFL star Phillip Adams shot and killed five people in South Carolina on Thursday.
Adams, 32, who once suffered two concussions in a three-game period, took his own life during a stand off with police in York County.
Two of his victims were children, aged nine and five, who were gunned down along with their grandfather Robert Lesslie, 70, who was Adams' doctor.
Following the murders, the killer's father Alonzo Adams said: “I can say he’s a good kid. I think the football messed him up.”
Dr Lesslie had reportedly just taken Adams off his meds before the killing spree.
Another recent attack linked to CTE is the car attack near the Capitol building in Washington DC on April 2.
Former footballer Noah Green rammed his car into a security cordon near the building killing a police officer before being shot dead by cops.
And while the disease has not yet been confirmed by investigators, Green's family say he was suffering from delusions and hallucinations and they believe head trauma from football may have contributed to his declining mental health.
Christopher Nowinski, who co-founded Boston University's CTE Center which will study Adams' brain, told The Sun Online that for years the NFL had funded bogus research which diminished to impact of head injuries.
He said: "The NFL was exposed for funding studies poor research into the area which Congress likened to Big Tobacco's efforts to sow doubt between smoking and lung cancer.
"They put millions of dollars towards flawed research studies that could only conclude that hits to the head don't cause problems."
In 2017, scientists at Boston University studied the brains of 111 dead NFL players and found evidence of the disease in 110 of those samples.
Nowinski, a former pro-wrestler who suffered long-term symptoms related to repeated concussions, said the research suggests than at least 50 per cent of NFL footballers have CTE.
He said: "Our study in 2017 of the NFL brains donated from 2008 to 2015 – we had 99 per cent of those brains had CTE.
"Those brains came from almost 10 per cent of NFL players who had died in that period.
"There's an interesting analysis based of that data which shows that it's very unlikely that the prevalence of CTE in NFL players is less than 50 per cent."
He added: "What is also tells you is that families are incredibly accurate at diagnosing the disease and those families have no medical training
"It shows that CTE has very obvious and specific changes to a personality.
"If the family think the person has CTE and they are able to donate the brain – they are right over 90 per cent of time."
One of the most high profile cases of CTE-related murder involved New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez, 27.
Seemingly with the world at his feet, a paranoid-Hernandez would sleep with knives and drive around in an armoured car filled with guns and rifles in hidden compartments.
In June 2013, the NFL star executed his friend Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near his home and was subsequently arrested and jailed for life without parole.
He was also accused of killing two other people but was acquitted of that double homicide.
After Hernandez killed himself in his prison cell, an autopsy showed he suffered from severe CTE resulting in lack of impulse control, paranoia and rage behaviors.
Another confirmed CTE murder-suicide involved WWE wrestler Chris Benoit who, in 2007, killed his wife Nancy and their seven-year-old son.
Benoit, 40, a former WWE champion, strangled his wife, 43, after tying her up at their home in Fayetteville, Georgia.
Nancy's body was found by police wrapped in a towel with a copy of the Bible placed on her body.
Some time in the next 24 hours, Benoit sedated his son Daniel and suffocated him before also leaving a Bible on his body.
Two days after killing his wife, Benoit took his own life.
Tests conducted on Benoit showed he had severe CTE with one expert saying his brain was "so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient".
Pro-wrestling in the 1990s and 2000s became more "extreme" with the performers regularly hitting each other over the head with chairs and other objects.
Ex-wrestler Nowinski said that Benoit had suffered multiple concussions through out his career which were left untreated.
He said Benoit "was one of the only guys who would take a chair shot to the back of the head – which is stupid."
In 2012, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, 25, shot his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, 22, dead before killing himself.
A year later his brain was found to have signs of CTE despite his young age.
After shooting Perkins in front of their baby daughter, who survived, the footballer then travelled to the Chiefs' training facility and killed himself in front of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel.
Another tragic CTE case involved Dave Duerson, who won the Super Bowl in 1985 with the Chicago Bears.
Duerson killed himself in 2011 aged 50 and requested in his suicide note that his brain be studied by experts.
The footballer intentionally shot himself in the chest to preserve his brain.
Experts found that he was suffering from CTE.
Nowinski, who has a Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience, said reseachers are still studying the strength of the relationship between CTE and violence.
"Not everyone who has CTE become aggressive or violent" he said.
He also pointed out that some mass murdering CTE sufferers also have other forms of brain damage as well.
Nowinski praised the NFL and WWE for adopting "dramatic cultural changes".
He said: "There has dozens of changes in football – such as all but eliminating hitting in practice.
"It is only allowed one day a week during the season and some teams don't hit at all."
However, he stressed that the game needs to be reformed at "all levels."
"It's not just the act of playing football – it's the act of playing for a long time and the ways that we've been playing it.
"We should not allow children to play tackle football before the age of 14," he said.
On the WWE, which has banned chair shots to the head, he said: "The wrestling community has been incredibly responsive to this research and I provide education to the talent every year along with another doctor.
"There has been a dramatic cultural change and all the wrestlers are aware of the risks and risk management."
If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
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