Former NHL player diagnosed posthumously with CTE

Many hockey fans in Florida and throughout the country were stunned and saddened by the sudden death of National Hockey League player Derek Boogaard, in May of this year. His death was attributed to an accidental overdose. After five seasons with the Minnesota Wild, at the time of his death, he was playing for the New York Rangers. He spent a majority of the 2010 season sitting on the bench after sustaining a concussion, a type of brain injury.

After he died, his brain was sent to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy to for examination. Researchers there determined that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to head trauma that has been repeatedly sustained. CTE has posthumously been diagnosed in a number of deceased football players. It was also discover in the brains of four former NHL players.

CTE is thought to be due to sustaining repeated blows to the head. Considered a relative of Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms are similar and include the loss of one’s memory, suffering from mood swings, impulsive behavior and sometimes addiction. While researchers were not surprised to find signs of the disease in Boogard’s brain, they were surprised by the extent of brain damage discovered. Researchers who studied his brain indicated that had he lived it was likely he would have suffered from dementia starting in middle-age.

Currently, the NHL has not accepted that playing hockey could result in CTE. The NFL initially took that stance as well. It has since changed its view and now even donates money to underwrite research on the matter.

While no amount of research can undo brain damage sustained, perhaps it can help to reduce the amount.

Source: New York Times, “Derek Boogaard: A Brain ‘Going Bad’,” John Branch, Dec. 5, 2011