Was O.J. Simpson the First Major Case of CTE? These 6 Reasons Says So

In 1994, O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. He was asked to turn himself in. He didn’t. Instead, armed with a gun, he led cops on a low-speed police chase that was televised nationwide. At this point, everyone was thinking the same thing.

O.J. Simpson went crazy.

There was nothing like it before. Such a high-profile celebrity. So public. So crazy.

Flashforward to 2011. Dave Duerson, a former NFL safety for the Chicago Bears, unexpectedly commits suicide. But not before texting his wife this message, which he also repeated on his suicide note – his last words:

“Please, see that my brain is given to the N.F.L.’s brain bank.”

It was. And inย May 2011, doctors at the CSTE confirmed Duerson had “indisputable evidence” of CTE.

Just one year later, in 2012. Junior Seau, a former NFL linebacker, suddenly commits suicide. Just like Duerson, Seau shot himself in the chest, not the brain. Just like Duerson, Seau tested positive for CTE.

2013. Aaron Hernandez is arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

2015. Aaron Hernandez is found guilty of first-degree murder.

2017. Aaron Hernandez is found hanged in his prison cell. His brain is donated to scientists to determine if he has CTE. Test results showed that he had a “severe case” of CTE.

Aaron Hernandez went crazy. Sound similar?

Why can’t we just test O.J. Simpson for CTE, right? CTE can only be discovered after death.

What is CTE?

If you haven’t seen the movie Concussion with Will Smith, the story of a forensic pathologist – Dr. Bennet Omalu – who discovers the neurological deterioration that he later named chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE for short, then I recommend you to watch it now.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a brain condition associated with repeated blows to the head. It is also associated with the development of dementia.

Studies have proven that former NFL players develop dementia and Alzheimer’s at a rate of four times greater than the average non-NFL citizen.

More than 4,000 NFL players have already sued the NFL for not informing them about the dangers and damage that repeated head hits and concussions have on players health.

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, published a study after analyzing the brains of 111 deceased NFL football players and finding that 110 of them had CTE – that’s 99%! Conclusive studies estimate that up to 99% of American football players will develop CTE throughout their careers. One of the worst things about CTE is that it can’t be discovered until after death so there is no telling how many active NFL players currently suffer from CTE.

Anyone who watches American Football knows that these players take more blows to the head than just about anybody. Boxers and mixed-martial arts fighters take quite a few blows as well but in those sports being good means not getting hit; in football, being good means delivering more hits, harder hits, bigger hits. It means ‘breaking through’ more hits while staying on your feet and moving forward.

Starting with Pop-Warner, high school, NCAA, and then the NFL if you’re lucky enough to make it that far, there’s no telling how many hits to the head these players take before they even make it to the NFL, and that’s where the real damage begins. Studies have found that brain trauma is not only caused by knock-out hits, but also through the accumulation of smaller hits.

Why It’s Likely That OJ Simpson Suffers From CTE

OJ Simpson CTE

1. OJ Simpson Was One of the Best Running Backs

OJ Simpson was a fearless running back for his whole career. He was fast, agile, and powerful enough to run right through the middle of the defense, which he did often. He won the Heisman Trophy in college and went on to have a legendary professional career as a running back.

2. Running Backs Take The Hardest Hits

In a study published by Brown University that measured head blows during games and practices at Brown University over the course of three seasons reports that:

Running backs and quarterbacks suffer the hardest hits to the head, while linemen and linebackers are hit on the head most often.

3. Running Backs Were Second Most-Likey to Have CTE

Of the 110 NFL players who tested positive for CTE, 20 of them were running backs – just second behind linemen at 44. This is clearly due to the fact that there were more running backs to analyze but it also says that all 20 of 20 deceased NFL running backs who were analyzed tested positive for CTE. This is probably due in part to the fact that running backs take the hardest hits to the head out of any player.

4. CTE Affects Athletes of Color the Worse

Black athletes make up almost 70% percent of NFL players and when we take a look at the positions that receive the hardest and the most head hits – the positions most likely to suffer from CTE – black athletes make up more than 80% of these NFL positions.

5. Football Equipment Was Inadequate In Those Days

Football equipment – especially helmets – has made leaps and bounds in the past few decades. As brain trauma and CTE becomes more household knowledge and the NFL keeps getting sued to do something about it, the NFL has been doing something about it. OJ Simpson played 11 seasons in the NFL between 1969 and 1979. The equipment they were using in those days was subpar, to say the least, and they certainly weren’t up to the standards they are today.

6. The NFL Had Fewer Rules Regarding Safety, Head Hits, and Concussions

The NFL has only recently added new rules to protect players from getting hit in the head too much or too hard. The NFL Concussion Protocol didn’t begin until the 2013-14 NFL season, so there was virtually no safety restrictions for NFL players during OJ Simpson’s 11 seasons in the NFL.


We’ve seen a few famous cases of NFL players with CTE killing themselves or something else (Junior Seau, Aaron Hernandez, etc.) so it’s not unlikely to think that maybe OJ Simpson was the first major case where a former NFL player – who unknowingly has CTE – commits an atrocious crime that is not becoming to their character. What are your thoughts?

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Written by Derek

Derek, our editor in chief, is an avid reader and lifelong backpacker who has traveled to more than 30 countries and 30+ U.S states. He is a digital marketing specialist with over 10 years of experience growing companies using innovative growth strategies.

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