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Former NHL enforcer Bob Probert had brain disease

Bryan Alaspa's picture

The announcement came out of Boston University’s medical center that former Chicago Blackhawk and Detroit Redwing enforcer, Bob Probert, had a degenerative brain disease.

Reports about Bob Probert's brain disease also came out of the New York Times and the Toronto Globe and Mail. Probert died last July of heart failure at the age of 45. He was infamous as a tough guy and enforcer for teams such as the Detroit Redwings and Chicago Blackhawks. He amassed 3,300 penalty minutes in his playing days which is good enough to rank 5th all time in the NHL.

The media is reporting that parts of his brain were donated for study to Boston University. This is the same university that is studying the brains of former NFL stars, such as Dave Duerson from the Chicago Bears. They are trying to determine the effects that playing violent sports has on the brains of athletes over time. Probert is the second former hockey player to donate brain tissue for the study.

The researchers at the institute stress that they cannot, as of yet, determine how much of the brain damage was due to playing hockey and fighting and how much might be connected to other things. The disease of both NFL and NHL players is known as CTE. Researchers are concerned that athletes in violent sports can develop CTE at a very young age.

The study at Boston University is trying to determine why concussions have become so commong and widespread in many sports such as football and hockey. They just recently received a $1 million grant from the NFL. The NFL also recently released new rules in treating concussions and players who are determined to have concussions.

In addition to the brain disease Bob Probert was plagued by other demons during his life. He was a recovering alcoholic, as well. It was his widow that decided to donate brain tissue samples for the study at the university after he died.

While the concussion problem has been prominent in the NFL, the number of concussions in the NHL has also been in the rise. However, the NHL’s commissioner, Gary Bettman, said during the All Star break that it appeared the concussions were due to accidents rather than contact with another player.

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