In case you have missed it the New York Times has been publishing a comprehensive look at Derek Boogaard, in a three-part series. Not only the circumstances surrounding his death, but the wonderful life he had. With the revelation that Boogaard was confirmed to have CTE all of this information is relevant to the concussion front.
The Times began the series with a look at Boogaards rise to the NHL, from an awkward skater with little scoring prowess to the massive man on skates that would fight anyone at any time, “A Boy Learns to Brawl“;
Boogaard rarely complained about the toll — the crumpled and broken hands, the aching back and the concussions that nobody cared to count. But those who believe Boogaard loved to fight have it wrong. He loved what it brought: a continuation of an unlikely hockey career. And he loved what it meant: vengeance against a lifetime of perceived doubters and the gratitude of teammates glad that he would do a job they could not imagine.
He did not acknowledge the damage to his brain, the changes in his personality, even the addictions that ultimately killed him in the prime of his career. If he did recognize the toll, he dismissed it as the mere cost of getting everything he ever wanted.
In the second installment “Blood on the Ice“, the Times looked at the inner-workings of the hockey enforcer;
Such adoration is not unusual. The enforcer, sometimes mocked as a goon or euphemized as a tough guy, may be hockey’s favorite archetype. Enforcers are seen as working-class superheroes — understated types with an alter ego willing to do the sport’s most dangerous work to protect others. And they are underdogs, men who otherwise might have no business in the game.
Boogaard went nearly five years between N.H.L. goals and scored three times in 277 games. He spent 1,411 minutes on the ice and 589 minutes in the penalty box.
In the last story in the series “A Brain ‘Going Bad‘”, the toll of being an enforcer was revealed;
The Boogaard family waited for results. One month. Two. Three. Two other N.H.L. enforcers died, reportedly suicides, stoking a debate about the toll of their role in hockey.
Four months. Five. The news came in a conference call to the family in October.
Boogaard had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as C.T.E., a close relative of Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. It can be diagnosed only posthumously, but scientists say it shows itself in symptoms like memory loss, impulsiveness, mood swings, even addiction.
More than 20 dead former N.F.L. players and many boxers have had C.T.E. diagnosed. It generally hollowed out the final years of their lives into something unrecognizable to loved ones.
And now, the fourth hockey player, of four examined, was found to have had it, too.
But this was different. The others were not in their 20s, not in the prime of their careers.
The scientists on the far end of the conference call told the Boogaard family that they were shocked to see so much damage in someone so young. It appeared to be spreading through his brain. Had Derek Boogaard lived, they said, his condition likely would have worsened into middle-age dementia.
And that was when Len Boogaard’s own mind went numb.
People and leagues can continue to doubt the issue of CTE; after all it will shake the foundation of the sport we know. What is rather apparent at this point in the research is that this condition only seems to be present with brains that have been exposed to repeated head trauma. What is more, if the original injury to the brain was allowed to heal properly we don’t know if that would have help. Simply because the major issue is the mismanagement of concussions.
If you have time I suggest reading the series and watching the accompanying videos.