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Health Highlights: Nov. 10, 2017

Aaron Hernandez' Brain Autopsy Reveals Signs of Severe Disease Linked to Head Trauma Obamacare Enrollment Tops 600,000 in First Week

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Aaron Hernandez' Brain Autopsy Reveals Signs of Severe Disease Linked to Head Trauma

Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots football player who hung himself in April at age 27, had a brain riddled with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease typically linked to repeat head trauma, doctors reported Thursday.

The findings might help explain the NFL star's erratic behavior before his death. Hernandez' suicide occurred in his prison cell days after being acquitted for a 2012 drive-by shooting of two men in Boston, and only hours before the Patriots were set to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory at the White House.

Hernandez was in prison serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd.

As reported by the Associated Press, Dr. Ann McKee, who directs Boston University's CTE Center, said it was impossible to "connect the dots" between Hernandez' CTE and his actions leading up to his death.

But she said the disease had affected the frontal lobe of his brain, an area linked to impulse control, judgment and behavior.

"We can say collectively, in our collective experience, that individuals with CTE -- and CTE of this severity -- have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses or aggression, often emotional volatility and rage behaviors," McKee told the AP. Her team has studied hundreds of brains of athletes donated after their death.

CTE is thought to be caused by head trauma, such as that experienced by football players, boxers and military personnel. It can only be diagnosed during an autopsy.

According to McKee, the outside of Hernandez' brain appeared normal, but the inside was severely affected by CTE. There was also evidence of numerous prior small hemorrhages, often linked to head trauma, she said. As well, the hippocampus (important to memory) was shrunken, and large holes were observed in the brain's membrane.

Overall, "These are very unusual findings to see in an individual of this age," McKee told the AP. "We've never seen this in our 468 brains, except in individuals some 20 years older," she said.


Obamacare Enrollment Tops 600,000 in First Week

More than 600,000 Americans signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act between Nov. 1-4, which was the first week of open enrollment season, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Thursday.

Nearly 80 percent of them renewed their coverage and about 23 percent were new consumers, the Associated Press reported.

Despite Trump administration reductions in advertising and enrollment assistance, the pace of sign-ups is about the same as last year. Open enrollment ends Dec. 15, which is much earlier than last year.

CMS said there are no problems with the website serving 39 states, the AP reported.

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