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Boston Globe/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s April suicide marked the last chapter in a dramatic fall from superstardom into a life of violence and incarceration. Now, findings from an autopsy on his 27-year-old brain have some asking whether his football career – and specifically, the blows to the head he received on the field – could be at least partly to blame.

The findings, released Thursday, indicate chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a condition that is the result of repeated head trauma. In recent years, research has uncovered evidence of a connection between CTE and certain contact sports, most notably professional football. A growing number of former NFL players and their families have come forward, describing the onset of psychiatric conditions and behavior changes believed to be linked to CTE.

But as to whether CTE was to blame in any way for Hernandez’s murder conviction, and later his suicide in prison, experts are split.

“The brain lesions noted on autopsy could be compatible with the psychiatric features, although the mechanism is unknown,” said Dr. Luca Giliberto of the Litwin-Zucker Research Center for Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York.

Even though the exact way CTE affects the likelihood of violent behavior is still a mystery, he believes a connection is, at least, possible.

“All data and evidence show that the risk is real,” Giliberto said. “We cannot hide our heads in the sand when we see these cases and say, ‘maybe not.’ If we keep hiding we will keep collecting more cases like Hernandez.”

Others, however, were more skeptical that enough evidence exists to blame violent behavior on CTE.

“Even though there has been speculation about behavioral changes due to CTE, no one has proven any correlation,” said Dr. Anthony G. Alessi, associate clinical professor of neurology and orthopedics at UConn Health. “This is where science breaks down and litigation comes into action.”

Indeed, most in the field agree that the research is only in its very early phases. The largest study so far on CTE in former NFL players, conducted at Boston University, involves the brains of just 111 such athletes. In all of these cases, the athletes themselves or their families volunteered the brains for study after these players had died. While the findings thus far have been revealing – 110 of the 111 brains studied showed evidence of CTE – they are not representative of all professional players in the sport. This means that researchers do not yet know how prevalent this condition is among all players on the professional level, much less among the millions of others who play or have played at the college and high school levels. Nor can these findings provide solid answers yet on the connection between CTE and behavior.

Where both Giliberto and Alessi agree is that sports in which head collisions are common definitely put players at risk of brain trauma and CTE. And they warn that the damage can start early.

“Around a six and half million young Americans are involved in some kind of youth sports associated with a high risk of collision damage to the brain,” Alessi said.

Of particular concern is repeated head trauma before the age of 13, while the brain is still maturing, he said. This can have dangerous future consequences, he noted.

Giliberto noted that entities like the NFL should also take steps to talk openly about the topic, as well as to step up and provide data needed to take advantage of the millions of dollars invested on research in this topic.

“The phenomenon of CTE has been there since times of gladiators,” Giliberto said. “It was just that we never looked at it and admitted that it existed.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Philadelphia Phillies legend Mike Schmidt beat cancer and is sharing his story with the hope of inspiring others.

The baseball Hall of Famer was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma in 2013, undergoing surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. Today, he is cancer-free.

Schmidt partnered with the pharmaceutical company Merck and Your Cancer Game Plan to provide people with tools and resources to fight their personal cancer battles.

ABC News recently spoke with Schmidt about his new partnership. He offered tips on how others can work through the disease, and what he learned from his experience.

Schmidt's first tip for those battling cancer is to form a team. He tells ABC News, "Let people into your life... they're good cures for something like we're going through."

Starting with his family, he formulated a team for emotional support. He also researched what melanoma is and how it is treated, better understanding his disease and staying in constant communication with his doctors. Even today, cancer-free, Schmidt speaks with his doctors on a consistent basis.

Schmidt now advocates for consistent and open communication with family members and medical professionals. He tells ABC News, "Team has always been a great thing to me... you have more people trying to reach one conclusion. One goal."

Receiving so much support from his family reminded Schmidt of the power of positive thinking, and recommends others who were recently diagnosed or have cancer to find positive people in their lives for support.

As he gained a better understanding of melanoma through his relationships with his medical team, Schmidt focused on his diet and eating more nutritious foods. Along with positive thinking, he learned how the food and others put in their bodies can make a difference in their health.

Facing the prospect of possibly saying goodbye to his wife and daughter, Schmidt's faith served as a pillar of support as he battled cancer. He would ask himself the question, "Are you gonna make it?"

Fear settled in with both him and his family.

To this day, he still relies on his faith because he faces the possibility of the cancer returning.

For Schmidt, prayer and a reliance on faith was a personal choice. His hope is those fighting cancer turn to faith in whoever or whatever they believe in, but recommends people find grounding and support in any form that is positive and makes them comfortable.

Schmidt shares his own story and talks about the strategies that helped him beat cancer on www.yourcancergameplan.com.

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ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- A blind football player at the University of Southern California (USC) helped lead his team to victory earlier this month, and now he’s opening up about his remarkable story.

Jake Olson, 20, the team's long snapper, made his debut as a Trojan in a game against Western Michigan University.

Late in the fourth quarter, Olson snapped for an extra point. The Trojans won the game 49-31.

"It was emotional," Olson said Friday on Good Morning America.

He added, "Just the pure bliss and just knowing that I accomplished a goal. I was able to give Trojan nation and, really, the entire sports world a message of inspiration and hope."

Olson, now a junior at USC, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when he was 1 year old and lost one of his eyes. The cancer came back eight times.

In 2009, at the age of 12, doctors told Olson he would lose his other eye.

Before he completely lost his vision at age 12, Jake told his parents that he wanted to see one last USC Trojans game. His wish reached then-Trojan head coach Pete Carroll, and Olson became a part of the Trojans family long before he joined the team.

Olson set a mission to play on his high school football team and tried out in his junior year at Lutheran High School of Orange County.

"I wanted to be out there so badly, and so I started thinking what position could I play that wouldn't require me to have sight," he said. "And then came upon long snapper. I was like, 'Whoa, okay, yeah, it's all feel.'"

After relentless practice, Olson landed a spot on the team.

His teammates supported him by clapping to let Olson know the distance of the snap, and then tapping on his leg to let him know when he could snap.

Olson walked on the USC team in 2015 as a freshman.

He is also the author of a book about his experience, Open Your Eyes to a Happier Life.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the latest scores and winners:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Cleveland 4, L.A. Angels 1
Baltimore 3, Tampa Bay 1
Kansas City 1, Toronto 0
Minnesota 12, Detroit 1
Chicago White Sox 3, Houston 1
Texas 4, Seattle 2

NATIONAL LEAGUE

L.A. Dodgers 5, Philadelphia 4
St. Louis 8, Cincinnati 5
Atlanta 3, Washington 2
Chicago Cubs 5, Milwaukee 3, 10 Innings
San Diego 3, Colorado 0

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PRESEASON
L.A. Kings 5, Vancouver 2
Boston 2, Philadelphia 1
New Jersey 4, Montreal 1
Minnesota 1, Winnipeg 0
Chicago 6, Detroit 1
Colorado 5, Dallas 1
San Jose 5, Vegas 2

TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL
(21) South Florida 43, Temple 7

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Los Angeles 41, San Francisco 39

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Getty Images(LINCOLN, NE) -- The University of Nebraska has fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst, the school announced Thursday.

In a statement, university chancellor Ronnie Green said “"Our fans and our student-athletes deserve leadership that drives the highest levels of competitiveness, as well as excellence across all facets of Husker athletics” and that Eichorst’s "efforts have not translated into on-field performance."

The Huskers started the season with a 1-2 record, most recently losing to Northern Illinois 21-17 last Saturday.

"While I am deeply disappointed in the decision today, I am grateful for the wonderful years that my family and I have spent at Nebraska," Eichorst said in a statement. "I am proud of how our student-athletes, coaches and staff represented this great university and state, and I am confident that the future is bright for Nebraska athletics."

Eichorst was hired from the University of Miami in 2012.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the latest scores and winners:

INTERLEAGUE
Tampa Bay 8, Chicago Cubs 1

AMERICAN LEAGUE
N.Y. Yankees 11, Minnesota 3
Oakland 3, Detroit 2
Boston 9, Baltimore 0
Kansas City 15, Toronto 5
Houston 4, Chicago White Sox 3
Cleveland 6, L.A. Angels 5
Texas 8, Seattle 6

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Miami 9, N.Y. Mets 2
San Francisco 4, Colorado 0
Pittsburgh 6, Milwaukee 4
Philadelphia 7, L.A. Dodgers 5
St. Louis 9, Cincinnati 2
Washington 7, Atlanta 3
Arizona 13, San Diego 7

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PRESEASON
N.Y. Rangers 4, New Jersey 3
Philadelphia 3, N.Y. Islanders 2
N.Y. Islanders 3, Philadelphia 2
Washington 4, Montreal 2
Pittsburgh 6, Detroit 5
Tampa Bay 4, Carolina 3
St. Louis 3, Columbus 2
Edmonton 4, Winnipeg 1
Vancouver 5, Calgary 3
Arizona 5, Anaheim 1

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Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A young girl was struck by a line drive foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, during the game between the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins.

The girl was taken to a nearby hospital where there was no update on her condition provided.

The child was attending the game with her grandparents, ESPN reports, when a foul ball off the bat of Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier hit her in the face. The game was delayed, and several players on both teams looked visibly distraught.

Yankees outfielder Matt Holliday was seen wiping away tears.

During a postgame news conference, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he was told by team security staff that the girl was doing okay.

Frazier spoke to reporters after the game with tears in his eyes. He said the moment made him think to his own two children. "It was terrible. I was shaken up a little bit. I hope she is all right," Frazier said.

"It is something that I wish never happened. It was tough. Tough to watch. Tough to be a part of, to be honest."

At Yankee Stadium, protective netting extends from home plate on each side to each team's dugout. Calls have been issued in recent years for expanding protective netting at all parks.

"Either one, you don't bring kids down there, or number two, every stadium needs to have nets," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said after the game. "I don't care about the damn view of a fan or what. It's all about safety."

Brian Dozier calls for mandatory protective netting after Yankee Stadium incident with foul ball hitting young fan. https://t.co/Ggyk1zVixe

— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) September 20, 2017


"I still have a knot in my stomach," Dozier added. "I hope the kid's okay."

In 2015, Major League Baseball issued recommendations to extend the netting to the ends of the dugouts closest to home plate. The Yankees have been examining the issue, while their crosstown rival New York Mets have already extended netting beyond the outfield ends of the dugouts this season.

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Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Fresh off one of the best games of his career, Minnesota Vikings quarterback missed his team's Week Two game against the Pittsburgh Steelers this week because of a left knee injury. Bradford said Thursday that the injury wasn't caused by a hit or any other contact play.

"I felt it when it happened," Bradford said Wednesday. "I honestly didn't think it was that big of a deal, and then the longer the game went on, it started to feel just a little bit worse and a little worse."

He said he was aware of his diagnosis, but would not elaborate to reporters.

Bradford was limited in practice last week and was inactive for the game against Pittsburgh following a pregame workout.

According to Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, Bradford remains day-to-day.

Bradford has previously torn the ACL in his left knee in both 2013 and again in 2014.

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33ft/iStock/Thinkstock(WICHITA FALLS, Texas) -- A Division II college football player died on Tuesday from injuries suffered in a game this weekend.

Cornerback Robert Grays, a sophomore at Midwestern State University, was injured making a tackle in his team's game against Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday. An athletics department spokesman told ESPN that Grays had been hospitalized in Wichita Falls on Saturday and flown to a hospital in his hometown of Houston.

School president Suzanne Shipley penned a statement released by Midwestern State Wednesday morning mourning Grays' death.

"Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile. He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches and teammates."

The nineteen-year-old's family offered a statement thanking those who had offered "prayers, kind words, condolences and support."

Grays was the second college football player to die this week. College of Wooster offensive lineman Clayton Geib, 21, died Sunday after the school reported that he "did not feel well" during the team's weekend game.

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BananaStock/Thinkstock(WHEATON, Ill.) -- Five football players from Wheaton College -- a Christian school in Illinois -- are facing felony charges for allegedly assaulting another student last year.

The alleged incident happened in March 2016 in Wheaton, about 25 miles west of Chicago, during which the alleged victim claims he was taken forcefully out of his dorm room, restrained against his will and left at a baseball field, Wheaton Police Chief Jim Volpe said Tuesday.

According to an investigation report obtained by ABC News, the alleged victim told school investigators that he was in a dorm when several people burst in, held him down, "violently" pulled his arms behind him and wrapped duct tape around his ankles and wrists.

The attackers put a pillowcase on his head and duct-taped it, and put him into a car, the alleged victim told investigators.

The alleged victim told investigators that his attackers attempted to sexually assault him with an object, and that he was also punched and slapped.

He told investigators that he was taken to a baseball field. He said dirt was thrown on him, his cellphone was taken, and he was left there partially naked.

After an investigation that has lasted more than a year, a judge on Monday signed arrest warrants for five Wheaton football players in connection with the case and set bonds at $50,000 for each, Paul Darrah of the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office told ABC News.

The five players are being charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint, Volpe said. The players have been "deemed inactive for practice or competition by the college’s administration and coaching staff," the school said Tuesday evening.

Volpe claimed Tuesday that part of why the investigation took so long was there were many people to interview, and since the alleged incident occurred close to the end of the school year, many individuals whom police were looking to speak with were gone during the summer.

Volpe said all the young men are expected to turn themselves in within a few days, but there is no set deadline on when they must do so. Volpe said they have fully cooperated. As of Tuesday evening, two of the players had turned themselves in.

Darrah said the most serious charge -- aggravated battery -- carries a maximum sentence of two to five years in prison.

The alleged victim told school investigators he suffered labral tears on both shoulders from the way his arms were pulled and restrained.

The alleged victim left Wheaton College shortly after the alleged incident.

Wheaton College said in a statement that it is "deeply troubled by the allegations brought by law enforcement against five members of our football team."

"When this incident was brought to our attention by other members of the football team and coaching staff in March 2016, the college took swift action to initiate a thorough investigation," Wheaton College said. "Our internal investigation into the incident, and our engagement with an independent, third-party investigator retained by the college, resulted in a range of corrective actions. We are unable to share details on these disciplinary measures due to federal student privacy protections."

"The conduct we discovered as a result of our investigation into this incident was entirely unacceptable," the school said.

The college said its anti-hazing policy and training protocols were revised in 2014 to "include a formal review of our anti-hazing policy with all student-athletes every year, with required student signatures."

"This incident has prompted our Board of Trustees to engage outside experts to lead a campus-wide review of the level of effectiveness of our anti-hazing policy and of the culture around how students treat one another in our campus communities, athletic teams and organizations. Wheaton remains committed to providing Christ-centered development programs and training to all our students," the school said. "Despite these deeply troubling charges, we have experienced positive changes on campus, including rapid responses from campus leaders to reports of hazing or other inappropriate behavior and effective disciplinary review."

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