Sure, he was a terrorist who killed four people, injured hundreds and shut down a city in terror for an entire day last week, but Tamerlan Tsarneav's brain -- studied for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) related to his amateur boxing career -- could be useful for science! Or at least, that’s what Travis Waldron of Think Progress offers as a silver lining to the Boston Marathon tragedy. It just adds to the humanization process that some in the media, like the Washington Post, have conducted with these two terrorists.
Someone does need an examination of the brain, but it isn’t Tamerlan. Waldron mentions that this science fair project could be seen as a diversion, but noted how the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs Jovan Belcher proves that it could be something of significance (emphasis mine):
But the reasoning behind mass killings like the Marathon bombing, are complex and often hard to understand, and the deaths of the killers themselves during or after the attacks can leave us largely without answers. Knowing that, it’s worth exploring every angle, including the possibility that brain injuries and CTE may have compounded problems Tsarnaev was already experiencing. CTE has, after all, been found in boxers as young as 17, and it has been linked to changing behaviors, depression, and dementia. And though it may seem like a diversion to investigate its role in Tsarnaev’s personality, CTE was an immediate consideration in recent tragic deaths like the murder-suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and the suicide of Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau.
Making sure that the autopsy of the older Tsarnaev includes a check for CTE would serve two valuable functions. In death, this man who caused so much harm might be a source of valuable data that could help shape our consensus about CTE and help others avoid brain injury in the future. And looking at the state of his brain as well as his YouTube playlist would serve as a critically important reminder of something we’ve forgotten in recent years: that terrorism can be inspired by many ideologies and grievances, and can spring to life in many kinds of fevered minds.
So, all boxers, or any athlete involved in contact sports, have the potential of becoming terrorists? It’s not Tameran’s fault, it’s the fact he got hit the head too many times?! Tell that to the victims of this horrible tragedy.