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In the last 20 years, former football great, OJ Simpson’s reputation has changed from legendary running back to violent criminal. Now People Magazine and one famous scientist are asking, are those two things related? Could O.J. Simpson have a brain injury?
OJ Simpson spent 11 years as a professional football player with the NFL. He set dozens of records and carried his teams toward many championships. But after his football career was over, Simpson had trouble adjusting to everyday life.
Two years after his second divorce, his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death in 1994. In what may have been the most publicized trial of the century, O.J. Simpson was tried for their murders, and found not guilty.
But that didn’t keep Simpson out of jail. In December 2008, he was convicted of 10 counts of armed robbery in Los Vegas. He will be in prison until at least 2017.
Now, the FX Network is retelling OJ Simpson’s story, in its show The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Paired with the recent release of Will Smith’s Concussion, the two media pieces are shedding light on a dark side of professional football.
The question of whether brain injury may have contributed to O.J. Simpson’s violent behavior isn’t a new one. The Hall of Famer’s criminal attorneys tried to use his condition as a defense in 2008. But the idea is gaining new traction in light of the recent coverage of repeated brain injuries suffered by NFL players.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist featured in Concussion, told People Magazine recently:
“I would bet my medical license that he has CTE.”
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, is a debilitating brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. It can only be diagnosed through an autopsy, by testing cross sections of brain tissue after the patient dies. But CTE symptoms can be hard to miss:
CTE has also been tied to life-changing dementia in retired football players, including Adrian Robinson, who committed suicide because of the disease.
People Magazine and Dr. Omalu suggest that O.J. Simpson’s condition could explain why the former football great’s life turned to violence so quickly. Dr. Omalu added:
“Given his profile. . . . I think it’s not an irresponsible conclusion to suspect he has CTE.”
The opinion won’t help Simpson get out of jail. But for the victims of CTE and their families, knowing what to look for can help. Doctors and therapists are developing treatments and coping mechanisms for CTE patients to help them overcome their history of brain injury.
David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents the victims of auto-related brain injuries against insurance providers and at fault drivers. If you know someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.
Image Source: Charles LeBlanc via Flickr (edited)