The renowned doctor whose discovery of a degenerative brain disease in football players inspired a hit movie says he believes O.J. Simpson may be suffering from the disease -- known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
Speaking yesterday in an interview with ABC News, Dr. Bennet Omalu -- the neuropathologist whose identification of CTE is depicted in “Concussion” starring Will Smith -- said Simpson was “more likely than not” suffering from CTE.
“I would bet my medical license on it,” said Omalu.
CTE is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. It has been found mostly in athletes who play contact sports, such as football.
Omalu has not examined Simpson personally and CTE can only be diagnosed after death via an examination of brain tissue, but the doctor says he can identify the tell-tale signs of CTE’s behavioral symptoms, which he said include explosive, impulsive behavior, impaired judgment, criminality and even mood disorders.
The strongest evidence that Simpson may have CTE, Omalu said, is his college and pro-playing years.
“He was exposed to thousands of blunt force trauma of his brain,” Omalu said.
Simpson, one of the most famous running backs in football history, became infamous after he was charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.
Though he was found not guilty in the much-disputed 1995 criminal case, Simpson lost a wrongful death civil suit brought against him by the families of Goldman and his ex-wife. He was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.
In September 2007, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas for armed robbery after attempting to steal sports memorabilia that he claimed belonged to him. The following year -- 13 years to the day after being acquitted in his criminal trial -- he was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping and sentenced to up to 33 years in prison.
Simpson himself once used concussions as part of a legal strategy after his conviction in the armed robbery case.
According to ESPN, during an appeal of his 33-year maximum sentence, Simpson’s attorney reportedly filed a sworn statement that his client had suffered “numerous blows to my head and/or landed on my head violently” while playing football.
Although Simpson never relied on that defense for his appeal, he was denied a new trial.
While Omalu stressed that CTE does not cause the criminal behavior that led to Simpson’s incarceration, he wants the case to serve a reminder of the life-altering damage that can result from playing football.
“I think because of our intoxication with football we are in some type of delusional denial. But that is how serious this is,” he said.