Admittedly, it’s not exactly like watching someone get thrown to the lions, but I think we all need to acknowledge that watching today’s most popular sports means witnessing the slow disintegration of athletes' brains.
It was only a matter of time before a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the NHL alleging the same kinds of brain injuries (plus opiate addiction), that have led about 4,200 American football players to sue the NFL. It is now being reported that,
The family of Derek Boogaard has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the National Hockey League. It contends that the N.H.L. is responsible for the physical trauma and brain damage that Boogaard sustained during six seasons as one of the league’s top enforcers, and for the addiction to prescription painkillers that marked his final two years.
Boogaard was under contract to the Rangers when he was found dead of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers and alcohol on May 13, 2011. He was 28. He was posthumously found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head.
“To distill this to one sentence,” said William Gibbs, a lawyer for the Boogaards, “you take a young man, you subject him to trauma, you give him pills for that trauma, he becomes addicted to those pills, you promise to treat him for that addiction, and you fail.”
The N.H.L., through a spokesman, declined to comment Sunday.
Soccer players may have it even worse. It was reported late last year that “even [soccer players] who have never experienced a concussion still have changes in the white matter of their brains, likely from routine and unprotected headers.” In other words, “even blows to the head that aren’t considered concussions may lead to traumatic brain injury.”
While concussions have long been a part of professional sports such as boxing and football, researchers are still struggling to define concussions clinically, and research into brain changes resulting from repetitive blows to the head is a relatively new area of research. “[Brain damage from repetitive blows] would have tremendous public health implications,” says Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, an associate professor of emergency medicine at URMC. “If players are damaging their brains, it is a large public health issue because everyone, even at a young age, hits their head like this. But right now we really don’t have enough information.”
Bazarian was not involved with the study, but has also used DTI to assess mild brain injury in high school football and hockey players.
Unfortunately, many high schools seem unwilling to take this problem as seriously as they should. Just last week, there was, “[a]n alarming study about teenage athletes." Specifically:
Doctors say even light concussions, if untreated, can cause severe harm to the brain like memory loss, major depression and even Alzheimer’s later in life. But now, a new survey released this week shows young players won’t report a concussion, even if they feel the headache and dizziness that could come with a big hit on the field.…Nearly half of the students surveyed said they would not tell their coach if they had concussion symptoms.
And when it comes to womens’ sports, like Lacrosse, there’s another problem. Coaches, it seems, think helmets would make the sport, I dunno, less "beautiful". So, when “two state legislators in lacrosse-crazy Maryland introduced a bill this year to require helmets,” the coaches actually protested.
"The beauty of the girls game is it's a lot more finesse, not bodies slamming and slashing and stick violations," said Peter Bogle, who coaches a co-op team in St. Charles. “My take is once you start with a helmet, girls are going to think, ‘Now I can go harder.’” …
Nonetheless, U.S. Lacrosse is planning to draft technical standards for female protective headgear. That should be done by early 2014, [Ann Carpenetti, managing director of game administration for U.S. Lacrosse] said, allowing sporting goods companies to develop models that, with luck, might be available by 2016.
She added, however, that she expects any new headgear to remain optional for the foreseeable future. “I don't think there's a silver bullet,” she said. “Nobody thinks there's a silver bullet to concussions.”