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John Branch writes for the New York Times and in a recent three-part series he looked at Derek Boogaard and his brain ailments and he early death at the age of 28.
Branch looked at Boogaard career starting with his youth hockey days, to his days in the minor league and into his NHL career. Boogaard was known for being an enforcer throughout his career.
Branch joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich to discuss that connection between fighting and brain injuries.
After working on this story is Branch convinced that enforcers in the NHL are putting themselves at huge risk for dementia and these brain ailments?
“I’m not necessarily here to take sides, but I think it’s hard to argue that they aren’t putting themselves at risk. They’re certainly doing themselves no favor. One thing that I think is a probably a healthy discussion to have is if the NHL is bent on trying to prevent their players from having concussions or at least trying to limit those concussions by changing some of the rules about blind side hits and so on, how do you counter that with the fact that they are going to step back and allow guys to fight with everybody watching and try to punch each other in the head,” Branch said.
Branch talked to many former and current NHL enforcers and there seemed to be a feeling of regret from the guys that have retired and are dealing with the issues now physically and mentally. Was he surprised by these feelings?
“I was surprised by that, I’m surprised to hear guys admit and they wouldn’t do it while they were playing for the most part because they’ve got to keep this persona up, but it is surprising to hear guys after they retire talk about the nights they spent the night before a game curled up in a hotel room scared to death or not sleeping the night before because they’re worried about that fight,” said Branch.
They discussed how some of these players have been fighting for years even before reaching the NHL level and why guys choose the enforcer role. Is there any treatment on the horizon for guys suffering with brain ailments besides just prescribing drugs?
Listen to the whole interview: