Eliminate the “Enforcer” in Hockey – Save Lives

NHL legend Ken Dryden says that concussions are “the biggest issue” in sports today, reports the Vancouver Sun.

Concussions in hockey don’t always result from gameplay but from players fighting. And fighting-related concussions are completely preventable.

In 2011, the hockey world was rocked by the passing of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak. Known as “enforcers”, the three former NHLers owed their careers to their fighting ability. They were not on the ice to score but to protect their teammates. Fighting caused brain injuries that led to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Neurosurgeon Robert Cantu and his team at Boston University study the brains of deceased athletes. Cantu explains that CTE can cause addiction, depression, and anxiety. “Anytime I hear of an athlete who has had a lot of head trauma who commits suicide, I am immediately concerned that chronic traumatic encephalopathy may have played a role,” says Cantu.

Derek Boogaard was perhaps the most dreaded enforcer in the NHL. He suffered many concussions. Not surprisingly, Boogaard’s brain showed signs of CTE.

Boogaard’s family is now in pursuit of justice. They have filed a lawsuit against the NHL for their role in Derek’s brain injury and associated addiction to pain medication. CBC Sports notes that in the 2008-2009 hockey season, Boogaard was given 1021 pills by NHL team doctors. At one time, he was taking up to 10 pills of oxycodone per day.

The Boogaards hope this lawsuit will cause meaningful change in the NHL.

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Nicholas Tsoi
Nicholas Tsoi joined Slater Vecchio in August 2011. Nicholas has represented clients in the Provincial and Supreme Courts of British Columbia and the British Columbia Court of Appeal.