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January 5, 2012

Time to Ban Fighting in Hockey

Twenty-five years ago the NHL did not appreciate the relationship between fighting and brain injury.

The NHL can’t claim ignorance anymore. Medical experts say it’s time to ban fighting in hockey.

An editorial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Stop the violence and play hockey, comments on the irreversible damage caused by head trauma. Research shows that the brains of some hockey players show signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – especially those players with a reputation for fighting. CTE is a condition associated with memory problems, behavioural and personality changes, and speech and balance abnormalities.

Victims of CTE are not only hockey players. In June 2010, ESPN wrote a story on Chris Henry, NFL wide receiver who played for the Cincinnati Bengals. Researchers studied Henry’s brain after he passed away in a traffic accident. They found CTE in multiple areas of his brain caused by repeated blows to the head during his football career. A 2009 study of former athletes, including prominent hockey players, football players, and pro wrestlers, found more than 50 instances of CTE.

Dr. Rajendra Kale, neurologist and interim editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says that hockey players who suffer repeated hits to the head risk permanent and progressive brain damage.

Dr. Kale says it’s time to stop the fighting and play hockey.

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