O.J. Simpson has CTE, but it didn't cause criminal behavior

‘Concussion’ Doc Says O.J. Simpson Has CTE — But Did Brain Disease Drive Him To Murder?

O.J. Simpson‘s former business manager, Norman Pardo, is convinced “something wrong with his head and there has been for a long time.” That “something wrong” could be CTE, as the doctor famous for discovering the degenerative brain disease has recently speculated.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, the neuropathologist who discovered CTE and whose story was recently dramatized in the film Concussion ­with Will Smith, told ABC News about his certainty that Simpson suffers from the disease.

“I would bet my medical license on it. He was exposed to thousands of blunt-force trauma of his brain.”

Dr. Omalu can’t definitely confirm that O.J. Simpson has CTE while he’s alive, however. The disease is only diagnosed in autopsy, when the diseased brain can be examined. But the tell-tale symptoms are there in the form of the former football players’ behavior: “explosive, impulsive behavior, impaired judgment, criminality and even mood disorders,” he said.

O.J. Simpson has CTE, but it didn't cause criminal behavior
Dr. Bennet Omalu. [Photo By Pete Marovich/Getty Images]
But the best evidence the doctor has to support Simpson’s diagnosis is simply his football career, and the numerous blows he sustained on the field during both his college and pro years. CTE is found mostly in athletes who play contact sports, like football. Many NFL players have been found to suffer from it; Frank Gifford, Junior Seau, and Tyler Sash were all diagnosed after their deaths.

O.J. is often credited as the most famous running back in the history of the game, according to ESPN. He played for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers for 11 seasons. After he became the first running back to gain 2,000 yards in a season, he earned the NFL MVP in 1973. He won the Heisman Trophy at USC and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

And all of those games translate into thousands of blows, something O.J. himself attested to in 2012 when he sought overturn a 2008 armed robbery conviction. He was trying to connect his criminal behavior to his history of multiple concussions, according to The Atlantic.

“I was knocked out of games for such head blows repeatedly in the 1970s & and other times I continued playing despite hard blows to my head during the football games.”

He never utilized that defense and was denied a new trial.

Omalu also said that the size of O.J. Simpson’s skull may also be a factor: he required a custom 8-and-one-fourth helmet at a time manufacturer’s didn’t many them over 7-and-three-fouths, said former Bills equipment manager Dave Hojnowski. He said he had “a big huge head,” and for the doctor, that means the blows were even worse.

O.J. Simpson has CTE, but it didn't cause criminal behavior
[Photo By melis/Shutterstock]

“If you have a bigger head that means (it’s) heavier. That means the momentum of your impact would be bigger. It’s basic physics.”

Does that mean CTE is to blame for O.J. Simpson’s long criminal history? Absolutely not, Omalu cautioned.

The former athlete is perhaps as famous for his football career as he is for his history of violent crime. He rose to infamy when charged — and then acquitted — with the gruesome murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. He ultimately lost a wrongful death suit brought against him by the families.

In 2007, he was arrested in Las Vegas for armed robbery and the year afterward, was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping and sentenced to 33 years in prison.

But Omalu didn’t identify CTE as a cause of O.J. Simpson’s criminal behavior and ultimate incarceration. His case, however, should serve as an example of how CTE can cause life-changing damage in someone who suffers repeated blows to the head.

“Given his profile. I think it’s not an irresponsible conclusion to suspect he has CTE.”

[Photo By Ethan Miller/Getty Images]

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