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Derek Boogaard Died Of A Brain Disease Linked To Getting Hit In The Head

Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images

The New York Times is doing a series about the life and death of for Wild bruiser Derek Boogaard.   It turns out the continued hits he took while fighting may have lead directly to his addictions and ultimately his death.  You can read part of that series below.  Should the NHL take this information and look into their fighting policy?

THROUGH THE NIGHT and into the next day, as the scrolls across the bottom of television screens spread the news of Derek Boogaard’s death last May, the calls of condolences came, one after another.

Among them was a call from a stranger, first to Joanne Boogaard in Regina, Saskatchewan, then to Len Boogaard in Ottawa. It was a researcher asking for the brain of their son.

An examination of the brain could unlock answers to Boogaard’s life and death. It could save other lives. But there was not much time to make a decision. Boogaard, the N.H.L.’s fiercest fighter, dead of a drug and alcohol overdose at 28, was going to be cremated.

There was little discussion.

The brain was carved out of his skull by a coroner in Minneapolis. It was placed in a plastic bucket and inside a series of plastic bags, then put in a cooler filled with a slurry of icy water. It was driven to the airport and placed in the cargo hold of a plane to Boston.

When it arrived at a laboratory at the Bedford V.A. Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., the brain was vibrantly pink and weighed 1,580 grams, or about 3 ½ pounds. On a stainless-steel table in the basement morgue, Dr. Ann McKee cleaved it in half, front to back, with a large knife. Much of one half was sliced into sheets about the width of sandwich bread.

The pieces of Boogaard’s brain were labeled as SLI-76. They were placed into large, deli-style refrigerators with glass doors, next to dozens of other brains.

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.

via Derek Boogaard – A Brain ‘Going Bad’ – NYTimes.com.

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