Doctors have recognized the link between head injuries in sports and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and most recently the NFL acknowledged the ties between football and CTE.
However, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still denies hockey’s connection to the disease. This Sunday on Outside the Lines (9 a.m. ET, ESPN2) reporter Steve Delsohn interviews former NHL player Scott Parker and the widow of Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks enforcer Bob Probert about hockey and traumatic brain injuries.
“It was poignant to talk to a man like Scott Parker who was defined by his toughness and now at times says he feels completely helpless, specifically when he has seizures and he talks about that [in his interview],” Delsohn said. “He says it’s been difficult for him and that this is something he’d never seen coming. He said he didn’t know when he was fighting [during games] that he may end up with long-term brain damage.”
Delsohn’s interview with the widow of Probert, a former NHL player who was diagnosed with CTE after his death, was particularly illuminating for the veteran reporter.
“She [Dani Probert] was very vocal about Bettman’s stance,” he said. “Boston University’s neuropathologist Ann McKee diagnosed Probert with CTE, she’s a leader in her field, and yet the commissioner of hockey is saying there’s no proven link between hockey and CTE. It puts Dani Probert and Gary Bettman on completely opposite sides of this issue. She said it sends a message to not just her, but other families of hockey players who have been diagnosed with CTE.”
Delsohn hopes this piece will encourage people to learn more about the risks involved with playing hockey.
“I hope that our viewers will become more educated about the possible link between hockey and long-term brain damage,” he said. “Right now, there are young football players who are deciding about that sport and they have more information now than five years ago about the potential dangers of football. Young hockey players and their families would also benefit from having more information about the potential risks.”