CTE in Hockey

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Re: CTE in Hockey

Post by rainier2 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 7:54 pm

A Preliminary Study of Early-Onset Dementia of Former Professional Football and Hockey Players

Participants: Twenty-two retired professional hockey and football athletes (average age 56 years) and 21 age-matched noncontact sport athlete controls.

Conclusion: None of the retired contact sport athletes qualified as having early-onset dementia consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. There were no remarkable differences in imaging, cognition, behavior, or executive function from noncontact sport athletes. The results underscore an apparent disconnect between public perceptions and evidence-based conclusions about the inevitability of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and the potential neurodegenerative effect on former athletes from contact sports.

https://journals.lww.com/headtraumareha ... _of.9.aspx

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Re: CTE in Hockey

Post by rainier2 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 7:58 pm

No Linear Association Between Number of Concussions or Years Played and Cognitive Outcomes in Retired NFL Players.

METHOD: Thirty-five retired NFL players over the age of 50 who had sustained at least one concussion completed a clinical interview and brief neuropsychological battery. Correlational analyses were conducted between exposure variables [number of total concussions, concussions with loss of consciousness (LOC), and years played] and cognitive performance as characterized by cognitive composite scores based on performance on neuropsychological measures (attention/processing speed, language, memory, and overall composite scores).

CONCLUSIONS: We did not find a significant linear association between cognitive outcomes and either number of total concussions, concussions with LOC, or years played in the NFL. These findings do not support a dose-response relationship between sports-related exposure to head impacts and cognitive outcomes later in life. Rather, the findings suggest that cognitive difficulties experienced by some retired players later in life are not directly linearly associated with quantified exposure to head impacts sustained throughout a football career, but related to factors or combinations of factors that have yet to be elucidated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30844072 (March 2019)

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Re: CTE in Hockey

Post by rainier2 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:03 pm

Is football bad for the brain? We know little about the long-term effects of concussions

by Munro Cullum, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute in Dallas.

"As a neuropsychologist, I applaud the increased attention that has led to improved protocols for diagnosing sports-related concussions and removing athletes from play until they have fully recovered. But I worry that the pendulum has swung too far. The reality is that we still don’t know who is most likely to suffer a concussion, who will take longer to recover, how anatomic or genetic differences influence concussions, and who may be at risk of prolonged symptoms or developing cognitive problems later in life."

"Rather than allowing fear to deprive children of the benefits of sports participation, let’s allow science to define the risks and help us make informed decisions."

https://www.statnews.com/2019/09/27/con ... m-effects/ (Sept. 2019)

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CTE Risk More Than Doubles after Just Three Years of Playing Football, says new study

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Nov 13, 2019 11:21 am

CTE Risk More Than Doubles after Just Three Years of Playing Football, says new study

For every year of absorbing the pounding and repeated head collisions that come with playing American tackle football, a person’s risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease, increases by 30 percent. And for every 2.6 years of play, the risk of developing CTE doubles. These new findings from an analysis of 266 deceased former amateur and professional football players—reported in Annals of Neurology by a team of researchers from the Boston University CTE Center—are the first to quantify the strength of the link between playing tackle football and developing CTE.

In a critical distinction between many previous CTE studies, the analysis included dozens of brains of former football players who did not have CTE. That sizable control group provided enough data for the researchers to be confident in their discovery that there is a strong relationship between CTE risk and the number of years a person plays football.

“This study is a testament to the hundreds of families who have donated their loved one’s brain…. It is only because of this support that we can confidently estimate the strength of the relationship between duration of [football] play and risk of CTE,” says the study’s corresponding author Ann McKee, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and a School of Medicine professor, director of the BU CTE Center, and chief of neuropathology at VA Boston Healthcare System.

The large number of brain donations has provided the researchers with a big enough sample size (the CTE Center has amassed about 700 brains in total), that they can draw statistically relevant conclusions from their analyses.

“While we don’t yet know the absolute risk of developing CTE among American football players, we now can quantify that each year of play increases the odds of developing CTE by 30 percent,” says lead author Jesse Mez, a MED assistant professor, director of BU’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center Clinical Core, and a CTE Center researcher. “We hope that these findings will guide players, family members, and physicians in making informed decisions regarding play.”

As part of their analysis, the researchers also looked at other potential variables, including the total number of concussions, football positions played, a person’s age at first exposure to tackle football, their participation in other contact sports, their race, and the presence of other diseases, to see whether those factors had any influence on a person’s CTE risk, or if they were diagnosed with CTE, the severity of their CTE symptoms. They found no associations between these other variables and CTE risk or severity.

But the researchers did find that among players with a CTE diagnosis, their odds of developing severe symptoms of the disease doubled for every additional 5.3 years of football played. Those who played tackle football fewer than 4.5 years were 10 times less likely to develop CTE than those who played longer, although several men who played four years or fewer were diagnosed with CTE, including three whose only contact sport was football. Those who sustained the longest careers, playing more than 14.5 years, were 10 times more likely to develop CTE than those who played fewer years. But the researchers noted that several players with football careers longer than 15 years did not have evidence of CTE.

The average length of players’ careers in the National Football League is 3.3 years. But the premature and sudden retirements of a number of stars in the league, including Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, have put renewed attention on the toll the game takes on players’ bodies.

The BU team drew their findings from analyzing the brains of 223 football players with CTE, and 43 without, from the brain banks at the Veterans Affairs-Boston University-Concussion Legacy Foundation and the Framingham Heart Study, both of which are directed by McKee. Family members of the deceased provided information about the amount of time that the brain donors spent playing football or other contact sports while they were alive. For former professional players, an online database also was consulted. All of the brains underwent a complete neuropathological evaluation—the researchers were not made aware of the clinical history of any of the donors before examination—and CTE diagnoses were made using well-established criteria.

A major concern of doing CTE research utilizing brain banks is that brain donors—who may pledge their brain tissue based on neurological symptoms they’ve experienced during life—may not be representative of the general population. These factors may bias the relationships being investigated by researchers. But McKee, Mez, and their collaborators show in this latest study that the strength of the relationship between CTE and years of football played remained consistent even after they factored in these potentially biasing factors.

Although CTE currently can only be diagnosed after death, Mez says, “these findings move us closer to diagnosing CTE in life, which is critical for testing potential therapies and for guiding clinical care.”

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, the Nick & Lynn Buoniconti CTE Research Fund, the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the Andlinger Family Foundation, WWE, and the National Football League.

CTE Risk More Than Doubles after Just Three Years of Playing Football
BU researchers discover a strong link between time of football play and rising chance of getting the disease
Read more: https://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/cte-football/

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Pain, agony and years of duress: how hockey families handle chronic brain injuries

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Nov 28, 2019 10:55 am

Pain, agony and years of duress: how hockey families handle chronic brain injuries

Jennifer Belak Liang remembers her car phone ringing as she was picking up her daughters Alex and Andie from school one day in August 2011. It was the agent for her husband, hockey player Wade Belak.

On speaker phone, the agent asked her if she had spoken to her husband that day.

She hadn't. It was the second phone call she received asking that question and it filled her with dread.

"Wade is really hurt," the agent said.

"It was awful. I was called by multiple friends … they knew before I knew. But they didn't know what to say," Belak Liang said of the day she lost her husband to suicide.

Belak's suicide was the third death in a cluster of tragic and sudden deaths of NHL enforcers, including Derek Boogaard, 28, and Rick Rypien, 27. All had been tasked with fighting on ice and all suffered multiple hits to the head. There have been other deaths of players since, including Steve Montador and Todd Ewen.

Now, the wives of some of the retired hockey enforcers are in their own fight, taking on the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman. They want the league to acknowledge there's a link between fights and head injuries on the ice and long-term effects like degenerative brain disease. They also want more support for families struggling with symptoms of traumatic brain injury.

"My husband had CTE. He was showing signs of CTE. He took his own life," said Belak Liang. "It's going to be many more... It's [an] injustice to everyone else out there, I think, for them not to admit that this can happen."

Wade Belak had recently retired from his 14-year career with the National Hockey League and was in Toronto in the summer of 2011 rehearsing for the show Battle of the Blades — the CBC reality show that pairs hockey players with figure skaters. At approximately 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 31, he ended his life.

After the loss of her husband, Jennifer Belak Liang struggled with feelings of isolation and guilt.

"I was drowning, blaming myself," she said in an interview with The Fifth Estate.

At the time, she knew little of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease. Her husband had asked that in the event of his death, his brain be tested for the disease. She fulfilled his wish, and he was diagnosed with CTE.

Since the loss of her husband, Belak Liang, who has since remarried, tries to offer support to others facing tragic loss of loved ones.

'Knew his role'

As an NHL enforcer who played 14 seasons in the NHL, Belak "knew his role," said Belak Liang. "He didn't love it, but he was fine with it [because] he wanted to stay within the NHL and have his career.

"He told me: 'I can't stay here unless I fight.' "

While many hockey players can make millions during their career, brain trauma and concussions can take a toll, especially for those who played the role of an enforcer — a role now being phased out.

It was during her husband's last years with the Nashville Predators that Belak Liang noticed a shift in his behavior.

"It started about five years before he passed. He just got really introverted, really quiet at home. When the kids were screeching or making noises, I could see him not able to handle it, which was not like him."

About eight months before he died, Belak noticed a decline in her husband's memory. He'd use his phone to help remember daily tasks, including taking pictures of groceries he had to buy.

'Through sickness and in health'

Many experts say concussions can often lead to a cycle of substance abuse, depression, memory loss, even suicide.

Daniel Carcillo, 35, from King City, Ont., has won two Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks, and was known as Car Bomb for his reckless fighting style on ice. He now battles depression and suicidal thoughts.

Carcillo said his wife, Ela Bulawa, has been burdened. "But I think that's what marriage and loving somebody is all about, right? Through sickness and in health."

While he was in his final NHL season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, Carcillo suffered great personal loss: the passing of his grandfather, as well as his best friend and teammate, Steve Montador, who was found to have CTE.

Carcillo, who had seven concussions during his NHL career, wonders if he could become another statistic. "Wade had CTE. Are these reaffirmations that I'm going to have CTE?... "There's a pretty good chance."

Recognizing the signs

Once retired, players can often feel abandoned and without support. Carcillo said he has felt that way. But he's taken steps to heal: functional neurology therapy, acupuncture, proper nutrition and diet. He speaks publicly, often on social media, about traumatic brain injury and the impact it can have.

"I'm very, very proud of Daniel, from where he has been, and where he is now," Bulawa said.

They have started a foundation called Chapter 5, which aims to provide support to retired players and their families, especially players who are suffering post-concussion syndrome, anxiety and depression.

"They put their whole lives into playing hockey and being the best of the best. And once it's over, then what?" said Bulawa. "It shouldn't just be,'Oh, that's it, sorry guys. See ya later.' "

Carcillo and Bulawa have learned to recognize signs of his depression returning, for example sleeping in, impulse control issues, loss of appetite and withdrawal from friends and family.

Blurry vision and headaches

Todd Ewen played hockey in the era when even after getting rocked on the ice, players were sent back out again. Both he and his wife, Kelli, believed he experienced head trauma because he had symptoms: blurry vision, headaches and sleeplessness.

After playing 11 seasons in the NHL, Todd Ewen retired in 1997. He became a real estate agent, was a musician, patented several inventions and coached the St. Louis University Billikens.

But Ewen was struggling. He became aggressive with Kelli. Depression, memory loss and confusion plagued him.

By 2013, he gave up coaching because he couldn't remember plays and was missing practices.

"We didn't know who we had. One day we had the sad Todd, the mad Todd, the angry Todd. We had no idea what was going on. This man suffered for years like this, our family suffered for years like this," his wife said.

They wondered if he could have Alzeimher's or Parkinson's disease, but with the loss of Rypien, Boogaard and Belak in 2011, Ewen began to wonder if he could have CTE. He told Kelli one day that he didn't want to be a burden. At the time, she did not realize the weight of his words.

On Sept. 19, 2015, Kelli Ewen found her husband in the basement of their home near St. Louis. He was 49 when he killed himself.

The Ewen family was contacted by the Canadian Concussion Centre in Toronto asking to study Todd's brain.

"I knew something was wrong. And I thought maybe this is the answer. I read the articles about [CTE]. I could just check off the boxes, just one after another. And I thought this has to be it."

But neuropathologist Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati at the centre told Kelli her husband did not have CTE. She was devastated and desperate for an explanation and said she asked the doctor to retest his brain, but Hazrati declined.

Class action lawsuit

In 2018, a class action lawsuit between more than 300 retired players and the NHL was settled. Players had accused the league of failing to protect them from head injuries or warn them of the risks involved with playing.

Ewen's negative CTE results were used as an example in the lawsuit of how media hype could lead a person to kill themselves because of fear of having CTE.

Bettman wrote: "This, sadly, is precisely the type of tragedy that can result when plaintiffs' lawyers and their media consultants jump ahead of the medical community and assert, without reliable scientific support, that there is a causal link between concussions and CTE."

Kelli Ewen said she was was extremely hurt, and believed they were using her husband for the benefit of the lawsuit.

The NHL announced an $18.9-million US settlement — $22,000 US per player and medical expense coverage up to $75,000 per person. However, there was no acknowledgement of liability for the players' assertions.

Carcillo refused to participate in the settlement.

Another test

Kelli Ewen couldn't live with the results from the Canadian Concussion Centre. She arranged to have samples of her husband's brain sent to Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and director of Boston University's CTE Center.

Her research, much of which has involved professional athletes, focuses on the long-term effects of all kinds of brain injury, which can include CTE. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed with an autopsy.

While there is no known treatment, the hope is research from Boston University's brain bank will one day allow the detection of the disease in life, "while there's still a chance to do something about it," McKee said.

In late 2018, McKee revealed her own conclusions to Kelli Ewen, stating her instincts were correct: her husband did, in fact, have CTE.

"[Gary Bettman] still stands by the [original] findings, which I find mind-boggling," Kelli Ewen said.

'It's not about money'

Kelli Ewen filed a lawsuit against the NHL on April 30, 2019, challenging the league's dismissal of a link between hits to the head during hockey games and CTE . She wants to bring awareness to concussions and CTE and the suffering families go through when they don't understand the symptoms they're seeing with their husbands.

"It's not about money, you know? It's about the pain, the agony, the years of duress," she said.

"I feel like it's the NHL's responsibility to stand up and take care of these players that this great game of hockey was built on; these fighters that gave, essentially, their lives for the NHL. And it's time for them to step up and admit and help them get the help they need."

The day after Kelli Ewen's lawsuit was filed, Bettman appeared before a Commons subcommittee in Ottawa regarding sports-related concussions and safety.

Bettman questioned any direct link between multiple hockey concussions and CTE, saying "in short, I don't believe based on everything I've been told — and if anybody has information to the contrary, we'd be happy to hear it — other than some anecdotal evidence, there has not been that conclusive link."

"Our players like the way the NHL game is played and understand the implications of playing a physical contact sport at the highest professional level in the world," he said.

"At the end of the day we view ourselves as a family, and our resources are available to the members of our family."

Jennifer Belak Liang, Kelli Ewen and the Carcillo family would disagree.

"It's crazy to me that they won't admit anything. It's sad," Belak Liang said.

"At least admit it's real," said Ewen. "That would go a long way with a lot of the families."

The Fifth Estate requested an interview with Bettman to address the wives' concerns, but the only response was: "Thank you for your inquiry. We will not be participating."

At a sports conference in Toronto last week, The Fifth Estate's Bob McKeown approached Bettman. All he would say was: "How are you? Nice to see you. I gotta go."

Pain, agony and 'years of duress': How hockey wives are fighting back over players' chronic brain injuries
Women also want more support for families struggling with symptoms
Read more: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hockey-p ... -1.5370444

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"Here’s the documentary that Gary Bettman doesn’t want you to see"

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Dec 03, 2019 12:15 pm

"Here’s the documentary that Gary Bettman doesn’t want you to see"

Sports Agent/Lawyer Allan Walsh: "Here’s the documentary by the Fifth Estate that Gary Bettman doesn’t want you to see. This is an honest, in-depth look at NHL players with traumatic brain injuries and the impact on their families. A group of wives are fighting back.”

Behind the facade of glamour and wealth, the wives of some retired hockey enforcers are in their own fierce fight. They want the NHL to acknowledge that there's a link between fights, and head injuries on the ice and long-term effects like degenerative brain disease. Women like Jennifer Belak and Kelli Ewen whose husbands Wade Belak and Todd Ewen took their own lives are part of that fight but so too is Ela Carcillo. She is married to recently retired player Daniel Carcillo who says he wonders if he will become one of the sad statistics.

Hockey Fight: Wives Reveal The Cost of Concussions - The Fifth Estate
Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_cont ... e=emb_logo

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Minnesota judge rules former 'Miracle on Ice' star mentally ill and dangerous

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:45 pm

Minnesota judge rules former 'Miracle on Ice' star mentally ill and dangerous
Former U.S. Olympic hockey player Mark Pavelich was ordered committed to a secure treatment facility.
By Pam Louwagie Star Tribune DECEMBER 4, 2019 — 9:30PM

A Minnesota district judge ruled Wednesday that former “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey player Mark Pavelich is mentally ill and dangerous and ordered him committed to a secure treatment facility.

Pavelich, 61, of Lutsen, Minn., will get another hearing in February to determine whether he should remain committed for an indeterminate period of time.

Pavelich faced criminal charges that he beat a friend with a metal pole in August after a day of fishing. Charging documents alleged that he had accused the friend of “spiking his beer” and that his friend suffered cracked ribs, a bruised kidney and a fractured vertebra, as well as bruises.

Judge Michael Cuzzo found Pavelich incompetent to stand trial, however, concluding based on an expert report that Pavelich was “incapable of participating in the defense due to mental illness or deficiency.” The criminal case was put on hold while the state moved to civilly commit him to treatment.

Two clinical psychologists who examined the former hockey star found Pavelich to have post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other conditions, according to Cuzzo’s order. Both found that he lacked insight into his mental illness and opposed treatment. Both considered him to be mentally ill and dangerous.

According to the order, psychologist Chris Bowerman found Pavelich to have delusions and paranoia, including a delusion that family, friends and neighbors tried to poison him. Bowerman noted that Pavelich’s responses escalated from damaging property to inflicting harm on another person.

Psychologist Jacqueline Buffington found Pavelich suffers from “mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury with behavioral disturbance (psychotic symptoms, aggression),” and opined that his condition is likely related to head injuries suffered over his lifetime.

Buffington also found that Pavelich sometimes “responded irrelevantly” to questions and struggled to express himself. She said it reflects a “mild anomic aphasia,” or communication difficulty that “usually results from damage to the brain,” according to the order.
The findings revealed in the court documents reflect what some of Pavelich’s family members have said in the past. They are convinced that Pavelich suffers from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, after repeated concussions and blows while playing in the NHL. They said they started seeing changes in him a few years ago and had tried to get help for him, but that he had refused.

His sister, Jean Gevik, has called his case “heartbreaking.”

“He’s been an amazing brother. Fun. Loving,” she has said. “This has been a total change.”

The NHL has faced criticism for its handling of head injuries despite a long list of rules, studies and league-player committees focused on enhancing player safety. The league reached a court settlement last year with hundreds of retired players who claimed harm from head injuries while playing, but the NHL admitted no fault or wrongdoing. Pavelich did not make a claim, his sister has said.

Pavelich assisted on Mike Eruzione’s winning goal in a stunning upset of the heavily favored Soviet Union in their medal-round game of the 1980 Olympic hockey tournament, referred to as the “Miracle on Ice.” Team USA went on to defeat Finland to win the gold.

Pavelich played with the New York Rangers for five seasons and briefly joined the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks. Out of the game since 1992, he has lived quietly in Cook County.

His wife, Kara, died in an accidental fall from a balcony at their home in 2012, and several years later, Pavelich sold his gold medal for more than $250,000 in an auction.

Pam Louwagie is a regional reporter and Duluth Bureau Chief for the Star Tribune. She previously covered courts and legal affairs and was on the newspaper's investigative team. She now writes frequently about a variety of topics in northeast Minnesota and around the state and region.

pam.louwagie@startribune.com 612-673-7102 pamlouwagie

Minnesota judge rules former 'Miracle on Ice' star mentally ill and dangerous. http://strib.mn/38535ag

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Re: CTE in Hockey

Post by O-townClown » Thu Dec 05, 2019 6:34 pm

so sad for anyone to go through
Be kind. Rewind.

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Tau pathology in the medial temporal lobe of athletes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy

Post by greybeard58 » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:49 am

Tau pathology in the medial temporal lobe of athletes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy: a chronic effects of neurotrauma consortium study | Acta Neuropathologica Communications | Full Text

https://actaneurocomms.biomedcentral.co ... 019-0861-9

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A broken star: Family hopes Olympic hockey player Mark Pavelich's story helps others

Post by greybeard58 » Sun Feb 09, 2020 3:53 pm

Broken Star

He was once an American sports hero, a high-flying playmaker from Minnesota’s Iron Range who competed with the best hockey players in the world.

Forty years ago this month, Mark Pavelich was thrust into the international spotlight when he passed the puck to a U.S. Olympic teammate for the game-winning goal over the powerful Soviet Union in an epic matchup forever remembered as the “Miracle on Ice.” Two days later, the U.S. won gold.

But now, on a gray wintry day in the Cook County courthouse, Pavelich’s glory days were a distant memory.

His once-thick brown hair was tousled and silver, the star-spangled uniform of the 1980 Olympic team replaced by a faded striped jailhouse jumper. Charged with beating a neighbor with a metal pole, the 61-year-old sat handcuffed before a judge as he listened to psychologists opine that he was so mentally ill he couldn’t be trusted with his own safety.

It was a heartbreaking fall for his family and friends to see. This wasn’t the kind, generous introvert they knew, the quiet, solitary man who wasn’t apt to pick a fight. This was a Mark Pavelich they didn’t recognize — someone who, in recent years, had started to act confused, paranoid and borderline threatening. And it left them wondering: Was the game that had given Pavelich so much purpose and joy through the years also destroying him?

Too many hits, too many blows to the head, too many collisions while battling for loose pucks on rinks from Eveleth to New York City have led Pavelich’s family to believe he suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease that can manifest in violence, impulsiveness and paranoia.

This spring, months after sending Pavelich to a secure state facility for mental health treatment, a judge is expected to decide whether his condition has improved to the point where he is no longer deemed dangerous.

Pavelich, speaking by phone from the facility, said recently that he felt he shouldn’t grant an interview while the determination is pending. “It’s just too tricky here,” he said.

In the meantime, his family is working to call attention to his plight and that of other athletes forever damaged by the games they played.

“Maybe his story is supposed to help a lot of people,” said Jean Gevik, Pavelich’s sister. “That’s what I’m hoping.”


Mark Pavelich declared as a young boy that he was going to be an Olympian.

“It wasn’t a question,” Gevik said. “He was going to make it work.”

Growing up in Eveleth, where hockey reigns supreme, Pavelich skated on the lake in front of his house as well as at a rink a quarter mile away. He rose before dawn to practice, and he often stayed late after other players left to work on stickhandling drills or to practice passing the puck from skate to stick. On some school nights, his parents practically had to drag him home.

A big Bobby Orr fan, he and teammate Ronn Tomassoni persuaded the manager at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth to let them watch hours of NHL highlights, both boys mesmerized by the smooth-skating Boston Bruins defenseman.

What Pavelich lacked in stature, at 5 feet 8 inches tall, he worked to make up with finesse, speed and grit. Though he didn’t pick fights on the ice, friends said, he never shied away from action. “A lot of guys don’t want to be the first person in the corner because you know you’re going to get hit,” Tomassoni said. But Pavelich “wasn’t going to shy away from the physicality of the game.”

Teammates saw early on that Pavelich was a cut above. “He just skated so smooth. His skates never left the ice,” said Peter Gilliam, a high school teammate. “He just glided.”

And yet, Gilliam and others said, Pavelich was an unselfish player, a center with a sixth sense for finding open wingers for a quick pass and a shot on goal.

“He would have an empty net after beating two defensemen … and give me the goal,” Gilliam said. “People … need to know how gentle Mark was.”

Pavelich’s life was jolted at age 18 when he was involved in a hunting accident that killed his friend. Ricky Holgers, 15, was hit by a ricocheting bullet, his brother Mike Holgers recalled. Pavelich had pulled the trigger. He raced about a mile through the woods to call an ambulance, then ran back to help his brother carry Holgers out, Gevik said. Later, he disappeared into the forest, distraught. A search party found him curled up by a tree, covered in blood, Gevik said.

After that, nobody talked much about it, Gevik said.

“You didn’t know how to deal with tragedy back then,” she said. “You just kind of brushed it under the rug and hoped it went away.”

Holgers’ family remained friends with Pavelich. And Pavelich forged ahead.

He earned a spot on the University of Minnesota Duluth team, where he won All-America honors before going on to star for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team under coach Herb Brooks.

NHL teams later shied away from Pavelich, his small size a big factor. So he learned to fly an airplane and played guitar in a band, often covering the Rolling Stones. He played hockey in Switzerland for a while.

Then Brooks became head coach of the New York Rangers and gave Pavelich a shot at the NHL.

“I don’t care how big or small he is, he can play,” Brooks was quoted as saying in Pavelich’s second year with the Rangers.

Pavelich scored 99 goals in his first three of five seasons with the team. He played in more than 350 NHL games in a career that spanned seven seasons.

“He was knocked down often,” a Star Tribune article said at the time, but “he always got up.”

Pavelich played hockey because he loved the game, not because he was seeking glory, friends, family and former teammates said.

He was quiet around strangers but opened up to those close to him. He was generous with his time and the good fortune that hockey and real estate development brought him, sending signed memorabilia to the children of friends and relatives, buying bonds for nieces and nephews, and showing up at friends’ fundraisers.

He was playful, too, friends and family said. He and a brother pranked his sisters on one of their frequent trips to the Boundary Waters by rustling in the woods to scare them into thinking there was a bear in camp. Afterward, he cracked up laughing.

“When you got to know him well and he felt that he knew you well … it would be a lot of fun,” said John Harrington, a fellow Iron Ranger and college and Olympic teammate.

Though Pavelich was described in media reports as a recluse in his post-hockey life, those close to him say he simply preferred fishing and hunting and spending time outdoors with his dogs.

“He’s always shunned the spotlight, and he’s had some pretty big spotlights on him. But he’s never wanted that,” Tomassoni said. “I think a lot of people misconstrued that shyness maybe for arrogance in some ways … he’s the furthest thing from arrogant.”

Confusion and contradiction

Relatives started noticing changes in Pavelich after his wife — a gifted pianist and painter — died in what was deemed a tragic accident in 2012. Kara Pavelich fell about 15 feet from a small bedroom balcony onto rocks on the couple’s property in Lutsen, apparently trying to get cellphone reception while Mark was taking a nap. He told responders that he woke up and found her on the ground.

“They were like peas and carrots,” Gevik said. “He was lost.”

Pavelich’s brother-in-law, Mark DeCenzo, remembers loading some of Kara’s paintings into his car to take to Pavelich’s mother’s house, as he said Pavelich had requested. A few years later, Pavelich questioned him about it, he said.

“He thought I was stealing stuff,” DeCenzo said. “That was probably the first time I saw something that made me wonder what was going on. … He lost sight of what transpired.”

Gevik remembers being frustrated by her brother’s puzzling inconsistencies, too.

Mark had decided to sell one of Kara’s paintings that had been hanging in an exhibit, saying he couldn’t bear to look at it, Gevik recalled. Thinking he might change his mind, Gevik and her husband planned to buy it so that Mark could have it later, she said.

“Pretty soon it was ‘Jean, I didn’t want to sell that,’ ” Gevik recalled.

He had been similarly perplexing when he decided to sell his Olympic gold medal and other memorabilia in 2014, Gevik said. He wanted to pay off the mortgage for his daughter’s house, he told the family, but kept changing his mind on how much he wanted, to the point where the auctioneer called Gevik.

“What I saw is a lot of confusion and a lot of contradiction,” Gevik said.

A psychology major, Gevik talked with her brother about getting help, she said, but he didn’t want to hear it. He grew angry instead. She ended up going to counseling, she said, trying to figure out what to do.

It was her counselor, she said, who first suggested that Mark might have CTE.

Growing concern

The calls came into the sheriff’s office sporadically over a few years. Mark Pavelich was acting strangely, and his neighbors and family members who called said they were worried. They wanted law enforcement to be aware of what was happening.

Pavelich had accused a neighbor of dumping sludge into his car fuel tank, one caller said. Another believed Pavelich had taken a sledgehammer to a neighbor’s boat.

One relative who telephoned said Pavelich was convinced that cookies from a neighbor were poisonous, and he was keeping them in his freezer as proof.

Then, last summer, a Lutsen resident called to report that he had been attacked with a metal pole and identified Pavelich as the aggressor.

Pavelich was booked into the Cook County jail on assault and weapons charges. A criminal complaint described Pavelich as accusing the neighbor of spiking his beer. The victim suffered two cracked ribs, a bruised kidney and a fractured vertebra, the complaint said.

In October, Pavelich was found incompetent to stand trial on the charges. Later, a psychologist who examined him for civil commitment proceedings determined that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury, saying his condition is “likely related” to the head injuries sustained over his lifetime.

DeCenzo and other family members can’t help but wonder whether the trauma of losing his wife so suddenly — and grieving and living alone after that — made his underlying illness unmanageable.

“My guess is … he was probably fighting it and she was probably the stabilizer,” DeCenzo said. “Somebody at home to keep you grounded.”

Diagnosis tricky

That is a possible scenario, said Dr. Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who has done research on CTE but was not familiar with the details of the Pavelich case.

“With all types of diseases, when you have social support, your disease is better managed,” Omalu said, adding that social stressors “are more likely to aggravate your underlying brain disease.”

While CTE can be confirmed only in an autopsy, scientists are working on a test to detect proteins associated with the disease in living people.

But doctors in some cases are now making a presumptive diagnosis of CTE, as they do in other types of dementia, Omalu said, relying on the standard of a “reasonable degree of certainty — meaning more likely than not.”

CTE is not the only type of brain damage an athlete can suffer, Omalu said. And if someone’s family has a history of mental illness, high-impact sports can increase the likelihood of manifesting mental illness, he said.

“Maybe with treatment … medication, his symptoms can subside,” Omalu said.

Pavelich’s family is hoping he will be released from the state facility where he has been housed since a judge found him “mentally ill and dangerous” in December.

A hearing to make a final determination on whether he should remain civilly committed indefinitely is expected to be held this spring.

In the meantime, some former NHL players are working with Pavelich to establish a therapeutic retreat ranch where players, their families and others struggling with mental illness and brain disease can go for counseling, animal therapy and other programs, as well as supporting research on CTE. They have started a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.

“You’re a good person your whole life …” Gevik said, her voice trailing off as she teared up thinking about what’s happened to her brother.

Now, she said, she just hopes something good can come from it.

“I told him, ‘We can help a lot of people this way.’ ”

A broken star: Family hopes Olympic hockey player Mark Pavelich's story helps others
Read more: http://www.startribune.com/a-broken-sta ... 567696722/

Jack O'Callahan, left, and Mark Pavelich of the 1980 U.S. ice hockey team talked during the "Relive the Miracle" reunion at Herb Brooks Arena on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, in Lake Placid, N.Y.
— Mike Groll - Associated Pres

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College football player researched CTE and later died by suicide. Brain study gave his parents answers.

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 3:25 pm

College football player researched CTE and later died by suicide. Brain study gave his parents answers.
Dana Hunsinger Benbow
Evan Hansen with his parents, Mary and Chuck Hansen, two days before he died.
This story explores suicide. If you are at risk, please stop here and contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support: 1-800-273-8255

Just days before Evan Hansen walked into the woods and died by suicide, he opened his laptop and searched CTE.

The 21-year-old senior football player at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, also searched on his computer for Jason Hairston, a former college star who played in the NFL and had just died by suicide. Hairston was later found to have CTE.

Evan's parents, Chuck and Mary Hansen, knew their son had been struggling. They didn't know to what extent. They knew he had been getting help for depression. They didn't know how deep it had gotten.

When Boston University scientists asked the Hansens if they could study their son's brain after his death, their answer was yes. Evan's brain was tested for CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head.

A year later, Chuck and Mary got their answer.

Researchers told them the folds of Evan's brain and top of his spinal column were dotted with the plaque tau — abnormal accumulations of protein that collect inside neurons. He had developed CTE, an incurable disease.

Chuck Hansen believes his son diagnosed himself.

"I think Evan thought he had CTE or some type of injury from playing football," he said. "He was kind of determined to try to figure out a solution."

Evan had been proactive about getting help for his mental health issues and had been on a few medications. Hansen said those drugs "always made him worse." Less than a month before he died, Evan was put on a new antidepressant, his dad said.

"At times it seems like he was controlling it," Hansen said. "Then there were times it was much more difficult for him."

'He was able to hide everything'
The morning he died, Sept. 10, 2018, Evan made three phone calls to 911 but hung up each time.

"He never said a word on the calls," Chuck Hansen said. "We can only guess what he was thinking."

Hansen said he realized something was wrong when he looked at the navigation signal on Evan's phone. The locator had been in the same spot for quite some time. He followed the signal and found Evan's body in the woods.

Just two days before, after a 16-13 Wabash win, Evan had walked with his parents at halftime for senior day. The family celebrated with dinner at The Creekside Lodge in Crawfordsville.

Evan, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker and team captain, was the middle son of three boys — a gentle guy off the field but a tornado on it. Hansen remembered how Evan was flashing his goofy smile as they ate dinner. They said goodbye, just as they always did.

Evan went home to his Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers that Saturday night. On Sunday, he showed up for a meeting with his football coaches.

“He didn’t let on to anyone. Nothing,” said Hansen. “He was able to hide everything from everybody. On the outside, he is still smiling and looking to the future.”

On the inside, the charade was over.

Evan Hansen died by suicide Sept. 10. He was the captain of Wabash College's football team.
At the time of his death, Evan had been playing football for 14 years, since he was a rambunctious 7-year-old. He played varsity as a freshman at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville. On the field at Wabash, Evan was fearless and loved by his teammates. He liked to make up handshakes with other players and dance to celebrate on the sideline. He was a deep-thinking, kind soul, too. Evan was majoring in biology and Spanish with plans to become a nurse working in underprivileged countries.

The Hansens chose to go public with their son's story in an effort to help others, to bring awareness to the need for research on CTE.

"We are trying to shed light on a story that is kind of easy to sweep under the rug," Hansen said.

CTE can express itself in the form of memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression and anxiety, among other issues, said Thomas McAllister, a neuro-psych physician with Indiana University Health and an expert on CTE.

Research on how the disease affects the brain -- as well as how it affects those with CTE -- is an area that continues to be under rapid development, he said.

"At this point in time, the definitive diagnosis can still only be done after death," McAllister said. "What would be nice would be to develop some of these criteria in advance."

And McAllister cautions people not to self-diagnose CTE.

"The danger here is if people say, 'OK, I'm depressed and I'm a football player and therefore I have CTE,'" he said. "That is really not a logical inference."

Depression is treatable.

"At any age, whether you are worried about CTE or not, if you have depression, forget about the cause," he said. "It is something to get help for."

He was 'the rock of the world'
Many factors led to Evan's death, Chuck Hansen said.

"A combination of five or six things we think contributed to him dying," he said, "someone that seemed like the rock of the world."

There was the underlying CTE but also Evan's new medication. There was the stress of school and football, and Evan was extremely fatigued because he had been having trouble sleeping, his dad said. Then there was that CTE computer search that likely hit Evan hard, when he suspected he had the progressive disease.

Evan Hansen played football his entire life and started as a freshman at Wabash College.
"Someone called it a perfect storm or imperfect storm," Hansen said. "It's not one of those things alone that was enough. But all those things culminating at this one point."

Linking CTE alone to suicide isn't something scientists are ready to do, said McAllister, because such a selective group of people makes their brains available for autopsies after death.

"It's a very highly selective patient population," he said.

For the Hansens, donating Evan's brain was an effort to accomplish two goals: More CTE research and finding ways to make sports safer.

"We’re not telling people to never play football or never do any contact sports," Hansen said. "But how can it be safer and what is safe? What is safe enough?"

The Hansens said they don't blame football or Wabash in any way for their son's death.

"Our goal is not to make this a blame game," Hansen said. "It doesn’t matter. There is no money that can ever fix any of this for us."

Getting help
Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

When in doubt, reach out: National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255

For information and other resources: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Follow IndyStar sports reporter Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow. Reach her via e-mail: dbenbow@indystar.com.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/n ... 760931002/

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Re: CTE in Hockey

Post by O-townClown » Tue Feb 18, 2020 3:43 pm

Another very sad tale. Thanks for sharing. Good news is I feel concussion awareness has increased tremendously.
Be kind. Rewind.

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The fight over CTE continues 5 years after Steve Montador's death

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Mar 03, 2020 10:28 pm

The fight over CTE continues 5 years after Steve Montador's death

Steve Montador's brain smashed against the inside of his skull 19 times in the course of his hockey career, each time hard enough to cause a concussion.

Nineteen times, his brain torqued and twisted.

And after each of those times, he eventually returned to the ice to play the game he loved. But in the end, the brain injuries took a cruel toll.

Montador died five years ago, on Feb. 15, after a 14-year professional hockey career and 571 games in the National Hockey League, including stints with the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers.

He was 35 years old and left behind a girlfriend who would give birth to their son only four days after his death. The child turned five in February.

An autopsy found Montador's brain had been ravaged by the degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The only known risk factor for developing CTE is repetitive blows to the head.

Montador, born in Vancouver and raised in Mississauga, was a beloved teammate who played a physical brand of hockey and wasn't afraid to drop the gloves.

After his competitive days were over and his life moved away from the ice, Montador paid the price for all his concussions.

Paul Montador was there to witness his son's downfall. Steve had depression, anxiety, substance use issues, headaches, chronic pain and difficulty sleeping. He became forgetful and struggled to control his emotions and decision-making processes.

"Fortunately he never became violent, but he was very forgetful and then his executive function, his decision-making was erratic and illogical and exaggerated," Paul Montador said. "He became aware ,and everyone else around him became aware, that this was becoming a very serious problem."

Paul remembers a small moment from his son's struggles that highlighted the depth of pain Steve was experiencing.

"He would spend 24 hours [a day] in his bedroom. I was sitting in his living room during that episode. And I was reading the newspaper," Montador said. "He came into the kitchen area and I turned the page in the newspaper and he looked over and he said, 'Dad, please don't do that,' in a very quiet voice. And I said, 'don't do what, Steve?' And he said, 'don't turn the newspaper like that. It kills me.'"

Paul Montador thinks the National Hockey League didn't do enough to protect his son and to educate him about concussions and the possibility of developing CTE. And that's why he's continuing with a lawsuit against the NHL originally started by Steve in the months before he died.

"His intention and therefore my intention and the family's intention in continuing with the court case is to make a difference in the NHL and hold them accountable for the lack of attention that they've paid to this matter," Montador said.

In a motion to dismiss the claim, the NHL's lawyers wrote that claims like Montador's fall within the scope of the collective agreement and should be addressed via arbitration. The motion also denies the NHL had a duty to study the long-term effects of concussions or to refrain from promoting violence in the game.

This isn't the first time the NHL has faced a lawsuit concerning traumatic brain injuries. In 2018, the league settled a lawsuit with 318 players for $18.9 million in payments and medical treatment. The league did not acknowledge any liability in the settlement.

Montador was originally part of the proposed class action, but his estate chose not to accept the settlement. Neither did his former Chicago Blackhawks teammate, Daniel Carcillo, or Boston Bruin Nick Boynton. Now, each of those three players will face the NHL at trial in federal court in the coming months. In Montador's case, depositions are due by the end of May.

The NHL did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

The NHL's defense

The NHL has become accustomed to facing these kinds of tough questions, surrounding concussions, CTE, and the death of some of its former players like Steve Montador.

Derek Boogard, Todd Ewen and Bob Probert are just a few of the players who have died young, post-playing career. All three of them, along with Montador, were found to have been living with CTE. Even Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita was recently diagnosed with CTE after his death.

Throughout the process of defending itself against claims that the league has not adequately educated or protected players from brain injuries and their fallout, the NHL has consistently referred to a medical research paper called the Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport.

The consensus statement is written by a panel of 36 experts in the field of concussion medicine and it says a cause-and-effect relationship has not been established between sports-related concussions and CTE. But critics say that simply isn't true, pointing to more than 200 studies from Boston University and many more around the world that have found CTE in post-mortem autopsies of athletes. The only experience common to the subjects of those studies was receiving repetitive blows to the head.

The conference which produces the consensus statement is sponsored by large sports organizations including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and world soccer body FIFA.

Critics of the consensus paper say big sports organizations are highly represented among authors of the statement. Thirty-two of the 36 panellists who wrote the statement have direct relationships with organizations like the NHL, National Football League, National Collegiate Athletic Association, the International Olympic Committee and more. Many of the affiliations existed at the time of the statement being written. Others developed in the years following the conference, while others predate it.

In his 2019 testimony to the parliamentary subcommittee on sports-related concussion in Canada, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman referred to the consensus statement six times.

Bettman was asked by Liberal MP Darren Fisher: "What is your belief now and what is the league's position these days on whether there is a link between CTE and concussions?"

"I'm not sure that the premise that the link is clear now is one that the scientific and medical communities have embraced," Bettman replied. "The consensus statement, which was subscribed to by 36 practitioners in the field, again has continued to say that there has yet to be the ability to draw the conclusion that one will lead to the other."

The NHL's reliance on the consensus statement was also noted in its defense of the lawsuit from former players that was eventually settled.

"All of the consensus statements played a significant role in the NHL's defense of the case and in particular the defense to our argument that the NHL failed to warn the players of the long-term neurological consequences of repetitive head trauma" said Stuart Davidson, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the NHL case.

"They also relied on the statements … where the panel concluded that a cause-and-effect relationship had not yet been demonstrated between CTE and concussions in sports."

"When I see a player being punched or hit violently … it's emotionally difficult.," he said. "It upsets me because I immediately flash forward to the potential tremendous negative risk that that player … could be subject to. And I would like for no one else to go through what my son went through."

And while a new consensus statement on concussion in sport is expected in 2021, It will be interesting to see whether the NHL continues to employ the last consensus paper in its case against the Montador family and Carcillo and Boynton in U.S. Federal Court, expected to begin in the coming months.

Brain Trust is a CBC Vancouver series that investigates the world of concussions, CTE and the medical research that informs their treatment.'I would like for no one else to go through what my son went through'

Steve Montador's dad, Paul, continues to be concerned about the way the NHL deals with traumatic brain injuries.

"There are still people out there who deny CTE and it hurts me," he said.

The fight over CTE continues 5 years after Steve Montador's death
Former NHLer's family is taking the league to court
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Miracle' hockey star Mark Pavelich found dead in treatment center

Post by greybeard58 » Sun Mar 07, 2021 9:51 am

Miracle' hockey star Mark Pavelich found dead in treatment center
The pride of the Iron Range was found mentally ill by a court after he was charged with beating a neighbor.
By Paul Walsh Star Tribune MARCH 5, 2021 — 3:51PM

Olympic "Miracle" hockey star and Iron Range sports legend Mark Pavelich was found dead Thursday in a central Minnesota residential treatment center, bringing to an end the life of a man who reached the pinnacle of international sport and hit the depths of legal and psychological distress.

Pavelich, who turned 63 a week ago, died at Eagle's Healing Nest, according to the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office. He had received mental health treatment there for the past several months. At the time of his death he was under civil commitment for a violent assault on a North Shore neighbor nearly 1½ years ago,

Sauk Centre police said they were called to the center about 8:30 a.m. Thursday on a report of a death. Emergency dispatch audio disclosed that Pavelich had not been seen since 8 p.m. Wednesday, and responding personnel said he appeared to have been dead for several hours.

His body was taken to the examiner's office in Anoka, which said it has yet to determine a cause and manner of death.

Pavelich's hockey resume is pure Minnesota gold in itself. He was a speedy and crafty standout for the Eveleth High School Golden Bears. In college, he led the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in goals in the last of his three seasons.

Then came his significant role in Team USA's "Miracle on Ice" defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics before they went on to win gold. Success followed Pavelich into the NHL, where he scored more than 30 goals in his first two seasons with the New York Rangers with "Miracle" head coach Herb Brooks behind the bench.

But after hockey, Pavelich's quiet life in near-seclusion along the sparsely populated North Shore came to a shocking halt when he was charged in Cook County District Court with beating his neighbor James T. Miller after the two went fishing in August 2019. Pavelich suspected that Miller, 63, spiked his beer. That unfounded notion left Miller with cracked ribs, a bruised kidney, a fracture to one of his vertebrae and other injuries.

Pavelich, a land developer and longtime Lutsen resident, faced four felony counts, including two assault charges and two illegal weapons charges after authorities found firearms with altered serial numbers on his reclusive property.

In December 2019, District Judge Michael Cuzzo ruled that Pavelich was incompetent to stand trial because he was mentally ill and dangerous. The judge ordered him committed to a state-operated secure treatment facility in St. Peter.

Two clinical psychologists who examined Pavelich before the order found him to have post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other conditions. Both found that he lacked insight into his mental illness and was opposing treatment.

However, he then showed enough progress in treatment to win release late this past summer from St. Peter to the less restrictive treatment center in Sauk Centre, where he had been living until his death.

One of Pavelich's attorneys in connection with his civil commitment, Carolyn Bruno, said, "Our firm is heartbroken that we have lost our friend and legend. … Recently Mark was filled with hope and renewal for the future. He had been thriving at the new facility since leaving St. Peter."

Pavelich was due in court Tuesday for a review of his civil commitment and the granting of a six-month extension of his time at Eagle's Healing Nest.

"Mark was dedicated to his recovery and had made great progress," Bruno said. "Mark's legal matters were moving in a positive direction."

In recent years, family and friends have said, they watched the public-averse Pavelich become confused, paranoid and borderline threatening. They said they came to believe that he suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy — commonly known as CTE — caused by repeated blows to the head while playing hockey as a tenacious, undersized forward.

Pavelich's sister, Jean Gevik, told the Star Tribune soon after the assault that the family is convinced that "all the concussions and the blows he had in the NHL" left him suffering from CTE, a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to erratic behavior and deaths among hockey and football players and others in sports that inflict trauma to the head.

"Mark is the most kind and gentle person you'd ever know," said Gevik, who would spend summers near Pavelich's home on property that her brother gave her. "This is a totally different guy."

The NHL reached a court settlement in 2018 with hundreds of retired players who claimed harm from head injuries while playing, but the NHL admitted no fault or wrongdoing. Each player opting in would receive $22,000 and could be eligible for up to $75,000 in medical treatment. Pavelich never made a claim, his sister said.

For all his success at every level of hockey, Pavelich will always first be remembered for winning gold in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.

He assisted on Mike Eruzione's winning goal in a stunning David-Goliath upset of the heavily favored Soviet Union in their medal-round game, which was referred to as the "Miracle on Ice" and inspired the Hollywood hit movie "Miracle" in 2004. Team USA then defeated Finland to win the gold.

Pavelich played with the Rangers for five seasons and briefly joined the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks. In 355 NHL games, he tallied 137 goals and 192 assists.

In a statement of condolence, the Rangers front office said Pavelich's "determination, passion, and dazzling playmaking ability earned him the adoration of Rangers fans. … Mark helped inspire a nation through the integral role he played on the "Miracle on Ice" team in the 1980 Olympics."

Out of the game since 1992, Pavelich lived quietly in Cook County. His wife, Kara, died at age 44 in an accidental fall from a second-story balcony at their home in 2012. Two years later, Pavelich sold his gold medal for $262,900 at auction, explaining that he was not in financial trouble and just wanted to provide financial security for his adult daughter.

The medal was bought by a hockey fan who knew Pavelich well. As an Eveleth grade-schooler, Brian Raduenz was a devoted hockey fan and went to many of Pavelich's high school and college games. He also remembered Pavelich as a tireless skater who spent countless hours on the Ely Lake rink that Raduenz's father tended to and flooded regularly.

The aerospace CEO and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel living in San Diego recalled Friday sitting on his parents' bed, getting in his hockey gear and listening on the radio to Pavelich and the rest of Team USA defeat the Soviet Union.

Knowing that Pavelich was on that team was "part of why I felt excited to have his medal," said Raduenz, who at times fought back tears less than an hour after learning of his childhood hero's death. He also remembered crossing paths when Pavelich was back in Minnesota in the early 1990s and said, "'I get hit too much. I'm going to retire from the Rangers and play in Europe.' "

Raduenz said he believes Pavelich "would be happy knowing I have the medal, rather than someone else. It wasn't that we had some kind of personal bond. I just followed him and knew the whole story."

Star Tribune staff writer Pam Louwagie contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

Reusse: Teammates' memories of Pavelich date to Iron Range, UMD and Olympics
Reusse: Teammates' memories of Pavelich date to Iron Range, UMD and Olympics
"This is tough for all of us," said Buzz Schneider, an Olympic linemate of Mark Pavelich, the former hockey star who was found dead Thursday at a mental health treatment center.

Paul Walsh is a general assignment reporter at the Star Tribune. He wants your news tips, especially in and near Minnesota.

paul.walsh@startribune.com 612-673-4482 walshpj

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'Miracle' hockey star Mark Pavelich's brain to be examined for CTE

Post by greybeard58 » Sun Mar 07, 2021 9:53 am

'Miracle' hockey star Mark Pavelich's brain to be examined for CTE

The family of Mark Pavelich will soon know for certain whether the "Miracle on Ice" hockey star suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy — commonly known as CTE — caused by repeated blows to the head while playing the game he loved.

Days after Pavelich, 63, was found dead in a Sauk Centre residential treatment center, his sister, Jean Gevik, wrote in an emotional Facebook post Saturday that her brother's brain was being analyzed for the degenerative brain disease, which can only be confirmed by an autopsy.

"Going with statistics, I have no doubt it will be riddled with disease," she said. "Mark loved the NHL and the Olympics and didn't blame them for his problems. He was unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to play in the big league ... especially in lieu of his size."

Pavelich, an Iron Range sports legend and standout at Eveleth High School,played a significant role in Team USA's "Miracle on Ice" defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics before the U.S. went on to win gold. That led to seven seasons with the NHL, but he spent his final years in legal and mental turmoil

When he died, he was under civil commitment for the violent 2019 assault of a North Shore neighbor. A judge initially deemed him "mentally ill and dangerous" and committed him to a state facility, but this past summer Pavelich was granted court approval to be transferred to the less restrictive, nonprofit Eagle's Healing Nest for treatment.

The Midwest Medical Examiner's Office in Anoka County has yet to determine a cause and manner of death, a spokesperson said Saturday. Gevik did not return a message for comment.

In her post, Gevik said that her family was going through "an unbearable time."

"The news is absolutely devastating," she said. "The last flicker of Mark's candle went out. Way too much trauma and way too much hurt. A life cut short."

The symptoms of CTE include confusion, impaired judgment, aggression and depression. Gevik and other family and friends have said they believe Pavelich suffered from the disease that has afflicted other NHL and NFL athletes.

They said the quiet, kind introvert they knew became increasingly confused, paranoid and angry after his wife, Kara, died in an accidental fall from their Lutsen balcony in 2012.

"Mark actually died years ago when he lost his beloved Kara. Now they're together again. Soul mates forever," Gevik wrote, lashing out in her post at what she called rumors of his involvement in her death. "Kara and Mark loved each other. Those of us who spent time with them knew. The summer before she died, they were out on the lake often ... he fished while she painted. It was beautiful to see them together.”

Gevik said she had "frustration and anger" about how society treats people with mental illness after seeing what her brother went through. "Why would you persecute a mentally ill man and push him to the point of hopelessness?" she asked.

Still, she said she was grateful that he spent his last months in a less-restrictive place than the high-security mental health hospital in St. Peter where he was first committed.

"He had the chance to play his guitar around a campfire with new friends, fish the local lake, and bask in the loving care of The Eagle's Healing Nest," she wrote.

'Miracle' hockey star Mark Pavelich's brain to be examined for CTE
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The Long, Sad Decline of Mark Pavelich, a ‘Miracle on Ice’ Star

Post by greybeard58 » Fri Mar 12, 2021 10:54 am

The Long, Sad Decline of Mark Pavelich, a ‘Miracle on Ice’ Star
The last time an Olympic teammate saw the often-troubled former hockey star, Pavelich seemed optimistic. Four days later he was dead. Now his sister wants to know if C.T.E. contributed to his difficulties and his death.

Mark Pavelich appeared to be doing well in recent weeks.

Pavelich, who set up the United States’ winning goal in the “Miracle on Ice” upset of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics, was receiving mental health treatment at Eagle’s Healing Nest, a rehabilitation center in a wooded part of Sauk Centre, Minn., where he had been living since October.

“He seemed optimistic,” said Bill Baker, an Olympic teammate who spent an hour strolling the Healing Nest grounds with Pavelich last month, talking about pastimes they shared — hunting and fishing. “He seemed like he was wanting to put this behind him.”

“He seemed like Pav,” Baker added. “Pav was Pav.”

That was a reassuring change for friends of the hockey star, who played five seasons with the Rangers after the Olympics. They had spent the last several years worrying about Pavelich, who in 2019 was found to have beaten a neighbor with a metal pole. Charged with felony assault, he was committed by a court to a state psychiatric hospital in Minnesota.

The incident was the most serious in a pattern of trouble for the man they knew as a wizard on skates and a gentle soul off the ice. Some family members and old teammates had begun to wonder if Pavelich, like a number of other former professional athletes, was suffering from mental illness brought on by blows to the head during his playing days.

On Feb. 28, his Olympic teammates joined in group text messages wishing him a happy 63rd birthday, and Pavelich seemed to enjoy hearing from his gold-medal brothers.

Four days later, he was found dead by a staff member at the treatment center. A cause of death has not been determined.

“Maybe it was a heart attack. We just don’t know at this point,” said Mike Eruzione, the captain of the 1980 team and the player who scored the winning goal against the Soviets, after Pavelich got him the puck.

In a message posted on Facebook, Pavelich’s sister, Jean Gevik, said her brother’s brain would be analyzed for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by blows to the head. “I have no doubt it will be riddled with disease,” Gevik wrote.

“This is an unbearable time for my family,” she wrote. “The news is absolutely devastating. The last flicker of Mark’s candle went out. Way too much trauma and way too much hurt. A life cut short.”

C.T.E., which can be diagnosed only after death, has been found in dozens of former athletes who had mental difficulties later in life. The N.F.L. star Junior Seau, as well as other athletes who died by suicide, was found to have had the type of brain damage associated with C.T.E.

The news of Pavelich’s death angered at least one teammate who had tried to help him through his mental and legal difficulties — Barry Beck, a former Ranger. Since Pavelich was declared “mentally ill and dangerous” by a county court judge in 2019, Beck had used Facebook to provide updates on Pavelich’s condition, and to call on the N.H.L. to do more to help former players struggling with mental illness that might stem from head injuries.

“I’m deeply saddened, shocked and overcome with grief upon hearing the news of Mark Pavelich’s death,” Beck wrote on Facebook from Hong Kong, where he has coached hockey for more than a decade.

Beck suggested that the N.H.L.’s 2018 settlement with hundreds of retired players, who had accused the league of hiding the dangers of head hits, was inadequate. The N.H.L. set aside $19 million to help the former players, far less than the potentially $1 billion settlement the N.F.L. made with its former players.

“After the C.T.E. lawsuit, the N.H.L. was just happy they didn’t have to discuss it anymore,” Beck wrote.

The N.H.L. offered condolences to the Pavelich family in a statement.

In a statement the Rangers said: “Mark helped inspire a nation through the integral role he played on the ‘Miracle on Ice’ team in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Our thoughts are with Mark’s loved ones during this difficult time.”

Pavelich grew up in Eveleth, in a rugged, sparsely populated area of Minnesota known as the Iron Range. Undersized at 5-foot-7, he was a quick, darting skater who seemed to sense where the puck and his linemates were headed. After starring at the University of Minnesota Duluth, he made the 1980 Olympic team, coached by Herb Brooks.

Brooks put Pavelich on a line with two other Iron Range players — Bill Schneider and John Harrington, who was a Minnesota Duluth teammate. They clicked, scoring more points than the three other U.S. lines at the Olympics, and Pavelich was the catalyst.

“He was a genius, how quickly he could think the game,” Harrington said.

Against the Soviets, Pavelich sent the puck to Schneider on the left wing, and his slapshot tied the game, 1-1. In the third period, with the game tied at 3-3, Pavelich tipped the puck from the boards to the middle of the Soviet zone just as Eruzione was crossing the blueline. Eruzione’s wrist shot put the U.S. team, made up primarily of college players, ahead of the Soviets, a team of mostly professionals. Two days later, the United States defeated Finland to win the gold medal.

After the Olympics, Pavelich played a season in Switzerland before signing with the Rangers, who had hired Brooks as their head coach. Pavelich totaled 76 points in 1981-82, which is still the team record for a rookie. In 1983, he scored five goals in a game, becoming the only player born in the U.S. to do so.

He was at ease around hockey, but the spotlight off the ice cast an unwanted glare. When Eruzione was doing color commentary on Ranger broadcasts, Pavelich declined even his requests for interviews. “Finally, the network offered $1,000 in hunting and fishing equipment, and Mark said, ‘OK, I’ll do it,’” Eruzione recalled.

When Sports Illustrated in 1999 named the “Miracle on Ice” the greatest sports moment of the 20th century at a gala at Madison Square Garden, Pavelich stayed home in Minnesota. “It’s too glitzy for me, Rizzo,” Eruzione recalled him saying. In 2002, the 1980 team was chosen to light the torch at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Again, Pavelich stayed home.

Pavelich loved his teammates, but when the spotlight was too bright, he would skip events, such as the team’s torch-lighting appearance at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

After hockey, he settled into a remote cabin near Lutsen, a village in the far northeastern reach of Minnesota, on the shore of Lake Superior. Few knew what he had carried with him for years. Before going to college, Pavelich had accidentally shot and killed a friend while hunting. In 2012, his wife died when she fell from an unfinished balcony they were adding to their home.

“Mark actually died years ago when he lost his beloved Kara,” Jean Gevik wrote on Facebook.

After that, Pavelich’s odd behavior became more pronounced. He suspected that one neighbor was putting substances into his truck’s gas tank. When another neighbor brought him cookies, he thought they were poisoned and stored them in the freezer.

When the Olympic team began a fantasy camp in Lake Placid, Pavelich brought his dogs but no equipment. Organizers scraped together some gear and old skates, and soon Pavelich was hopping the boards and skating as he had in the glory days.

To Schneider, his linemate seemed fine, but stories he’d heard about Pavelich made him wonder. “You had to think, ‘Is maybe something slipping?’” he said.

On Aug. 15, 2019, Pavelich went fishing with another longtime neighbor, Jim Miller. At some point, Pavelich became convinced Miller had spiked his beer, and Pavelich attacked him with a pole. Miller sustained broken ribs, a bruised kidney and other injuries.

Found incompetent to stand trial, Pavelich was sent to a psychiatric institution that treats offenders with the most serious mental illnesses. “Rizzo, I’m the sanest guy here,” he told Eruzione. Beck worried about Pavelich, phoning him several times a week from Hong Kong. “Pav needs to be moved to a treatment center and not detained in the facility he is presently in,” Beck wrote on Facebook. “He won’t get the help he needs there.”

Last fall Pavelich was moved to Eagle’s Healing Nest, which treats primarily veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. There he was able to fish, as well as have his dogs, frequent visitors and passes to leave for lunch with friends.

By all accounts, Pavelich seemed to be improving, although Beck said that Pavelich told him last month that he was anxious about the next hearing in his case.

On March 4, Schneider got a call from a friend who had heard a rumor that Pavelich had died. He called Baker, and they pieced together the sad news. Schneider recalled visiting last fall, and being struck by the contrast between the Pavelich he read about in the newspaper and the quiet man he saw at the fantasy camp and other Olympic team gatherings.

“He felt safe around us, you know,” Schneider said. “It was a family.”

A version of this article appears in print on March 10, 2021, Section B, Page 10 of the New York edition with the headline: The Long, Sad Decline of a ‘Miracle on Ice’ Star. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/09/spor ... racle.html

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Death of ‘Miracle on Ice’ standout Pavelich ruled suicide

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Apr 07, 2021 9:21 am

Death of ‘Miracle on Ice’ standout Pavelich ruled suicide

Last month’s death of “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey standout Mark Pavelich was ruled a suicide, a Minnesota medical examiner said Monday.

The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Anoka County said in a news release that the 63-year-old Pavelich died of asphyxia. His body was found March 3 at the Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

Pavelich was undergoing treatment at the home as part of a civil commitment for assaulting his neighbor in Cook County, Minnesota, in August 2019. Pavelich thought the man had spiked his beer.

He was charged with felony assault but Judge Michael Cuzzo found he was incompetent to stand trial because he was mentally ill and dangerous. The judge said psychologists found that Pavelich was suffering from delusions and paranoia. Experts also diagnosed him with a mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury, likely related to repeated head injuries.

Pavelich, the speedy center from the Minnesota Iron Range, assisted on Mike Eruzione’s winning goal against the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. That U.S. team went on to win the gold medal. Pavelich sold his gold medal for more than $250,000 in 2014, two years after wife Kara died in an accidental fall.

Pavelich starred at Eveleth High School and was an All-America selection at the University of Minnesota Duluth before earning a spot on the Olympic team.

The 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward spent five seasons with the New York Rangers and played briefly for the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks, finishing with 137 goals and 192 assists in 355 NHL regular-season games. He had a five-goal game for the Rangers on Feb. 23, 1983, in an 11-3 victory over Hartford.

“As a kid growing up in Hibbing I used to go to the arena and hang out with gear in hand waiting to see if I could skate with the teams that rented the ice,” former Minnesota and NHL player Pat Micheletti tweeted after Pavelich died. “Mark Pavelich always let me join with the Eveleth guys. He taught me so much about the game.”

Death of ‘Miracle on Ice’ standout Pavelich ruled suicide
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Former NHL player JT Brown pledges brain to science

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Sep 09, 2021 6:21 pm

Former NHL player JT Brown pledges brain to science
The former Lightning, Ducks and Wild winger made the commitment during his final NHL season in 2018-19 but has not talked publicly about it until now, Rick Westhead writes.
By Rick Westhead

While playing with the Minnesota Wild in his final National Hockey League season in 2018-19, JT Brown became the second active NHL player to pledge his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston.

“We need more information about brain injuries and concussions, the kind of information you can get from studying brains after someone has died,” Brown said in an interview on Tuesday with TSN. “I love hockey and want to see the game grow and would love to try to do what I can to make it safer for future generations.”

Brown, 31, grew up in Rosemount, Minn., and played 365 regular-season games in the NHL with Tampa, Anaheim and Minnesota. Brown played during the 2020-21 season in Sweden before he retired and joined the expansion Seattle Kraken as a TV analyst. He was undrafted after playing NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Brown made his brain pledge in early 2019 but has not talked publicly about his decision before now. He was the second active NHL player to pledge his brain to science, following former New Jersey Devils player , who made the commitment to the same foundation in 2017.

Brown said that he was in 26 fights as a professional and had three fights in junior hockey.

“I think about my brain health, with the style of game I played,” he said. “I was a small player, stature wise, and played gritty and played with lots of energy and tried to hit everything that moved… I don’t know what the impact of the fighting has been on my brain. That’s part of the reason I’m doing this.”

Brown said he suffered at least two documented concussions playing professional hockey, the worst of which occurred during a random play.

“It was innocent,” he said. “ and I were skating through the neutral zone. Neither of us was looking at the other. He barely clipped my chin. He wasn’t trying to do anything. There are times you get your head rammed into the boards and no problem; you don’t feel anything. Then you barely get touched and you have to miss time.

“I missed two weeks with that. I had headaches, the sensitivity to light. I was feeling down, feeling foggy. Then you think you can go and play but working out you can just tell your body isn’t right. You’re out of synch.”

Lexi Brown, JT’s wife, said she began researching brain injuries and looking for ways to help advance science after former NHL player Dan Carcillo began sharing his mental health struggles publicly.

“Dan talked about battling depression and his brain health and that’s something hockey wives think about and worry about,” she said. “An [NHL player] gets knocked out or they have to bring a stretcher out for him, there’s always a group chat with women saying, ‘Hope he’s okay,’ and reaching out to his significant other.

“When JT breaks a hand or something like that, we know how it’s going to be fixed. You know he’s going to be okay. But with the brain, you don’t have that same assurance. It’s scarier… The challenge is hockey culture, where guys don’t speak out on a lot of issues.”

Lexi said many players are leery about talking publicly about brain injuries until they are retired.

After researching the science of brain injuries, Lexi contacted the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which works alongside scientists at the CTE Center at Boston University. Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist there, has studied the brains of more than 100 former pro football players and a handful of former NHL players to establish whether repeated head trauma leads to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

CTE can only be detected through a postmortem examination of the brain. The disease has been linked to mood swings, depression and violent behaviour and is caused by repeated blows to the head, researchers say.

Dr. McKee has diagnosed CTE in former NHL players Derek Boogaard, Reggie Fleming, Rick Martin, Stan Mikita, Jeff Parker, Bob Probert and Larry Zeidel. Former NHL player Steve Montador also had CTE, according to researchers with the Canadian Sports Concussion Project in Toronto.

Dr. McKee also has discovered CTE in the brains of four former junior hockey players. All four – none of whom advanced to the NHL – died by suicide before the age of 30.

In 2008, Keith Primeau became the first former NHL star to pledge his brain to the CTE Center. Former NHL players Jeff Nielsen, , , Ted Drury, Shawn McEachern and Bob Sweeney in retirement have also pledged to donate their brains.

https://www.tsn.ca/nhl-jt-brown-brain-c ... -1.1690993

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Minor leaguer whose anger was ‘like a light switch’ had CTE

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Oct 07, 2021 2:58 pm

Minor leaguer whose anger was ‘like a light switch’ had CTE, widow says
Tyler Amburgey, who played seven professional seasons in three leagues, suffered from anxiety, depression and other symptoms of post-concussion syndrome for several years before his death, Rick Westhead writes.
By Rick Westhead

Former minor-league hockey player Tyler Amburgey was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the brain-withering disease linked to repetitive brain trauma in contact sports, his widow told TSN in an interview.

Amburgey was 29 when he died of COVID-19 in August 2020. His widow, Aimee Eigenberger, said that he had suffered from anxiety, depression and other symptoms of post-concussion syndrome for several years before his death.

“He got a temper and wasn't sleeping,” Eigenberger said in a phone interview with TSN. “He'd be up for days on end and had anxiety. Tyler knew something was going on. He told me, ‘I can feel something wrong in my brain.’”

Eigenberger said it almost seemed like Amburgey, who played seven professional seasons in three leagues, had become a different person.

“He had numerous concussions playing hockey,” she said. “His behaviour changed. His anger was like a light switch. He’d fly off the handle over nothing, like if I asked him to mow the lawn. He’d go into our bedroom, sit on the bed, and just stare at the wall. And he was on so many medications. He was on meds to treat side effects from other meds. He was on OxyContin and Xanax and muscle relaxers. One neurologist had him on three or four different brain meds. There were days he would just cry if he forgot something or if he was late for something. And he was not a crier.”

Eigenberger said Amburgey told her he wanted his brain to be donated to science. In late July, doctors at Boston University’s CTE Center told her that Amburgey had CTE. She said that she does not know the extent of the CTE because she still has not received a written report from scientists.

A defenceman from Rowlett, Texas, Amburgey played on the U.S. Under-18 national team and went on to play seven professional seasons with teams in the United States Hockey League, the Central Hockey League and the Southern Professional Hockey League.

Amburgey’s case highlights that while media accounts of athletes with CTE centre on those who make it to the major leagues in their sports, there are many minor-league pro athletes who are also at risk of developing long-term neurological problems because of concussions, said Chris Nowinski, chief executive of the Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation, which works with Boston University on CTE research.

“There’s no question CTE is also a problem for minor-league athletes,” Nowinski said. “That’s concerning because they don’t have the same support systems as major-league athletes to help them if they do develop neurological disorders. Also, there are far more minor-league hockey players who never made it to the NHL than there are NHL players, and we don’t have any idea how many of the minor-league players are dealing with problems like this.”

Amburgey played his final professional season in 2015-16 with the Pensacola Ice Flyers before returning to Texas.

“Tyler tried to work at an office job. It wasn’t a fit for him,” Eigenberger said.

Amburgey was coaching minor hockey in Dallas when he became ill with COVID-19.

Eigenberger said she is sharing her family’s story to raise awareness of the issue of repeated brain trauma.

“My advice to other hockey wives is to watch for signs and symptoms and do something,” she said. “Take them seriously. Once it goes too far, you don't know how dark it is.”

Former NHL players who have been diagnosed with CTE include Stan Mikita, Bob Probert, Derek Boogaard, Jeff Parker, Wade Belak, Larry Zeidel, Reggie Fleming, Rick Martin, Steve Montador, Zarley Zalapski, Todd Ewen and Dan Maloney.

Four former junior hockey players, who all died of suicide before the age of 30, have also tested positive for the disease.

While the NFL admitted in 2016 that a link exists between repeated brain trauma and long-term neurological disorders, the NHL has rejected the connection.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told a Canadian parliamentary committee studying concussions in sports in 2019 that no such association has been established.

“Other than some anecdotal evidence, there has not been that conclusive link… there has not been conclusive determinations,” Bettman testified.

The National Hockey League Players’ Association issued a statement to TSN a week later rejecting Bettman’s stance.

“It goes without saying that trauma to the brain can be harmful and we recognize, as the [U.S.] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cited, that the research to date suggests that CTE is caused by repeated trauma to the brain, including concussions and sub-concussive events,” the union wrote.

https://www.tsn.ca/minor-leaguer-whose- ... -1.1702583

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Re: CTE in Hockey

Post by goldy313 » Fri Oct 08, 2021 10:38 pm

Last Saturday I was officiating a high school football game, the receiver caught the ball and was immediately hit in the ribs. The hit was violent enough that it resulted in the receiver becoming unconscious. The hit was not to the head, video confirmed the hit was not to the head, not even close. We flagged the defense for a defenseless receiver foul.

This was scary, hits to head are scary in and of themselves. However this was such a violent hit that even without head contact we had a concussion that resulted in a loss of consciousness for multiple minutes. It was not, by any means, a dirty hit, not even close. He used a form tackle and avoided the head. That this happened just goes to show it is not necessary that the contact to the head causes the concussion, it is the action of the brain in the skull that causes the injury.

One notable change was the team on defense went from celebrating a good hit to to being somber and taking a knee within seconds upon realizing the kid was unconscious. We didn’t have to say a word. The education on brain injuries is working.

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Scientists make a big breakthrough in brain disease diagnoses for living athletes

Post by greybeard58 » Sun Dec 12, 2021 6:41 pm

Scientists make a big breakthrough in brain disease diagnoses for living athletes

Scientists moved a significant step closer to diagnosing CTE in living athletes
Scans of Dave Watson's brain showed he's suffering from sports-related disease
Currently CTE - neurodegenerative disease - can only be confirmed after death
Scientists in Boston have moved a significant step closer to diagnosing CTE in living athletes rather than only the dead, with scans of Dave Watson's brain indicating the former England captain is suffering from the sports-related disease.

Currently CTE – the neurodegenerative disease found in those with a history of head trauma, including footballers, American footballers, rugby players and boxers – can only be confirmed after death via brain autopsy.

Yet a Boston University study on brain imaging has provided the best evidence to date that MRI scans can detect evidence of CTE in those still alive. It is significant news as such a breakthrough would allow scientists to explore ways to slow down the decline in ex-professional players such as Watson with treatment.

The 75-year-old with 65 England caps has been diagnosed with dementia. His wife and caregiver, Penny, described diagnosing CTE in the living as 'a total game-changer'.

'It's encouraging to see this progress, along with the recent announcement about the joint action plan on brain health in English football,' she said, referring to the announcement of a multimillion-pound project launched by the FA, Premier League, EFL and PFA to tackle the dementia crisis.

The study found its participants confirmed with CTE had shrinkage in certain areas of the brain which the healthy controls used in comparison did not.

Those with CTE were also nearly seven times more likely to have an abnormality called a cavum septum pellucidum (CSP). The Watson family have been told by more than one specialist that Dave had one of the largest tears in his septum pellucidum they had ever seen.

'CSP is seen commonly in people with CTE and seeing it in Dave's brain raises the likelihood that he has CTE,' Penny added.

'My family and I strongly believe this is evidence that the trauma to his brain that Dave sustained throughout his professional footballing life was significant enough to cause neurodegenerative disease.'

Scientists say they will now work to learn whether the patterns seen on MRIs match the pathology of CTE.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by repeated hits to the head. Over time, these hits result in the accumulation of tau protein around the brain, which can lead to confusion, depression and eventually dementia.

There have been several retired football players who have come forward with brain diseases, many of whom attribute their condition to the game.

More than 1,800 former athletes and military veterans have pledged to donate their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for CTE research.

CTE was usually associated with boxing before former NFL players began revealing their conditions.

Several notable players who committed suicide were posthumously diagnosed with the disease, such as Junior Seau and Aaron Hernandez.

Scientists make a big breakthrough in brain disease diagnoses for living athletes following scans of former England captain Dave Watson's brain - which shows he is suffering from neurodegenerative CTE
Read more: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sport ... letes.html

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Meet 4 people who worry about CTE, but never played in the NFL

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Dec 30, 2021 7:45 pm

Meet 4 people who worry about CTE, but never played in the NFL

Katie Weatherston: "Knowing won't really do you any good”

In a rink in her hockey gear, Katie Weatherston describes herself as "a tiny player." At just five feet two inches, she was one of the smallest members of the Canadian women's national ice hockey team.

"But I was probably one of the fiercest," she said. "I had that bull-in-a-china-shop mentality. You wouldn't want to get in my way ... I was fearless."

Her skill on the ice won her a gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics, but her style of play came with a lot of bodily contact — and eventually injuries. In one game alone, she said, she took several hits to the head yet kept skating, and she now believes she suffered multiple concussions that day.

"It was the worst decision of my life, probably, to go back and play," Weatherston told NPR.

Since retiring from hockey in the late 2000s, Weatherston has been plagued by eye pain, headaches, sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises, memory problems, and mood swings. She believes a bicycle accident in which she hit pavement headfirst worsened her health issues.

To treat those symptoms, she's tried acupuncture, a chiropractor, group therapy for chronic pain, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, yoga and dietary supplements, to name a few.

"It's a money pit," said Weatherston, 38, who lives in Ottawa, Canada, and now teaches hockey. "For the amount of mixed messages I get from one doctor to the next, it's hard to know who to trust and which direction to go."

Weatherston wonders whether her problems may be due to CTE, but she knows the disease can be diagnosed only through an autopsy.

Even if there were a way to diagnose CTE in living people, Weatherston questions what value that would have, since there are no FDA-approved treatments for the disease. "So knowing won't really do you any good, would it?" she said.

For now, Weatherston said, she's focused on treating her symptoms, but "my fear is that I'm constantly going to keep going downhill."

She added: "No one has ever asked me if I wanted to pledge my brain after I die, but they're welcome to contact me, because I would 100 percent donate my brain to science."

Meet 4 people who worry about CTE, but never played in the NFL
Read more: https://www.npr.org/2021/12/23/10612203 ... in-the-nfl

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Former Canadiens star Backstrom had CTE, researcher says

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Feb 02, 2022 2:48 pm

Former Canadiens star Backstrom had CTE, researcher says
Ralph Backstrom, who won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens during a 17-year NHL career, had a severe form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that has been discovered in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repeated hits to the head.
By Rick Westhead

Ralph Backstrom, who won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens during a 17-year NHL career, had a severe form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that has been discovered in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repeated hits to the head.

Backstrom’s wife, Janet, confirmed his posthumous diagnosis. Backstrom died Feb. 7, 2021, at the age of 83 in his home in Windsor, Colo.

After donating his brain to researchers at Boston University, Backstrom’s family was contacted in October with exam results showing he had stage 3 CTE. (There are four stages.)

“Ralph would have been proud of this research to know that even after he died, he could be helping others by increasing our knowledge about CTE," Janet Backstrom said in an interview with TSN. "This is now part of Ralph's legacy."

A copy of Backstrom’s two-page neuropathology report documents that he also suffered from Lewy body disease. People with Lewy body often suffer from short-term memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s and can struggle to navigate complex tasks like grocery shopping.

Backstrom’s posthumous diagnosis of CTE is noteworthy because he was known as a scorer and playmaker, not as a particularly belligerent player. His career high for penalty minutes in a season was 51.

Researchers believe CTE not only comes from concussions that might be suffered during a fight on the ice, but also from the repeated blows to the head and jarring body checks that occur routinely during a game.

“This is significant because it draws attention to the fact that former players who were known as skill players are being diagnosed with CTE,” said Chris Nowinski, the co-founder and chief executive of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “This goes beyond fighters and big hitters.”

CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously. The degenerative brain disease is linked to symptoms like personality changes, memory loss and impulsive outbursts.

Janet Backstrom said her family was unanimous in its support to donate Ralph’s brain to Boston University researchers.

“The news Ralph had CTE helps us understand why he was suffering the way he was with his memory function,” Janet said. “It was devastating on him."

Janet said she married Ralph in 1985. He was working at the time as a coach for The University of Denver.

"Ralph made me so happy, he made me laugh every day," Janet said. “He didn’t like to talk a lot about the hits that he took playing in the NHL. I remember him going to the doctor to have some sinus work done and the doctor asked him how many times he had his nose broken. Ralph answered, ‘Oh, maybe once.’ The doctor laughed and said, ‘No way. You’ve had your nose broken at least 16 times.’”

Backstrom, who won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year in 1959, recorded five 20-goal seasons with the Canadiens and two more with the Los Angeles Kings.

He played in six NHL and four WHA All-Star Games, helped the Canadiens capture the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons on three different occasions, and played in a combined 1,336 career regular-season games in the NHL and World Hockey Association, collecting 378 goals and 514 assists.

Apart from his contribution to Montreal’s Stanley Cups, Backstrom’s impact on the Original Six franchise was felt long after Canadiens general manager Sam Pollock traded him to Los Angeles on Jan. 26, 1971.

Pollock had previously acquired the California Golden Seals’ first pick in the 1971 draft and the deal with L.A. was intended to ensure California finished last overall, so Montreal would have the right to pick first and choose one of Guy Lafleur or Marcel Dionne.

Pollock’s strategy worked. Backstrom scored 14 goals and added 13 assists in 33 games with the Kings, who went from last place to fifth in the NHL’s West Division, passing California in the process.

Montreal selected Lafleur, whose Hall of Fame career with the Canadiens included five Stanley Cups.

Of the 14 former NHL players whose brains have been studied by researchers, 13 have been found to have had CTE.

NHL players diagnosed with CTE include Stan Mikita, Steve Montador, Todd Ewen, and Bob Probert. Four-time First or Second Team All-Star Rick Martin, a non-enforcer who had five seasons of 40-plus goals with the Buffalo Sabres, also tested positive for CTE. One-time Toronto Maple Leaf Kurt Walker is the only former NHL player who tested negative.

Nowinski said BU researchers are currently studying the brains of several other former NHL players. An NHL spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Nowinski said there have been advances in the science around CTE in recent years and “if the science breaks right, hopefully we’re five years from being able to diagnose the disease in living people.”

Once that happens, researchers would be able to begin medical trials to learn whether certain drugs are effective at slowing or stopping the damage caused by CTE.

Nowinski said he’s observed a stark difference in the approach taken by the National Football League and NHL when it comes to the science of CTE.

“The NFL acknowledges that playing football causes CTE and the NHL does not acknowledge that playing hockey causes CTE even though it’s very clear that it does,” he said. “It’s an absurd denial. I wonder if the NHL’s refusal has slowed down the engagement of hockey players on this issue. That said, I’m having conversations with leaders in the hockey community, and I hope this is the year more hockey people will come to the table on this.”

Boston University is home to the largest brain bank in the U.S. devoted to researching CTE. The school’s CTE Center has now collected 1,250 donated brains and is receiving three to five new brain donations every week, Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and the CTE Center’s director, said in an interview.

For the past several years, BU researchers have requested families to donate the eyes and spinal columns as well as brains of their loved ones.

Spinal columns are being used to study a possible link between CTE and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a degenerative nervous system disorder that causes the loss of muscle control.

While Dr. McKee said she had hoped that donated eyes might be used to help identify CTE in the living because the eyes are connected to the brain, she said that specific research is “slower going.”

Like Nowinski, Dr. McKee said she was disappointed that the NHL has not publicly acknowledged a link between playing hockey and long-term cognitive disorders.

“It’s avoidance that shows a lack of a humane response to former players, but it’s not unexpected,” Dr. McKee said. “The bottom line in sports is the most important thing for team owners. Acknowledging a link would open the league to more lawsuits and settlements with former players.”

The NHL in November of 2018 announced an $18.9 million (U.S.) settlement with 318 former players who joined a lawsuit accusing the league of downplaying the long-term dangers of repeated brain trauma.

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This article is part one of a two-part series exploring the risks involved in contact sports and the dangers of chronic

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Feb 09, 2022 11:39 pm

‘I wish I never played hockey’: Former QU men’s hockey player reveals life-threatening effects of ‘intoxicating’ smashmouth culture that has him searching for answers

Connor Lawless

Riley Millette, Sports Editor
February 1, 2022

Note: This article is part one of a two-part series exploring the risks involved in contact sports and the dangers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Masculinity is forever ingrained in American sports.

Remember the days when a hockey player would slam their helmet into a sheet of Plexiglass after a huge hit?

They would say, “I’m fine, coach.” Or the medical staff would say, “he’s fine, coach,” when that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The repercussions of the rockstar playstyle has caught up to former athletes. Players who were uneducated on the true peril of concussions are suffering today: pain, mental illness, addiction, suicide.

Neil Breen was a star. He played hockey for the Omaha Lancers, a junior league team in the USHL. The stadium was sold out every night he played there — he estimated about 7,000 fans. He called it “addictive” and “intoxicating.”

Neil was a small player, only 5 feet, 7 inches and around 190 lbs during his playing days. During his first game as a Lancer, he fought a mountainous 6-foot-4-inch man on the other team. He wasn’t afraid of anyone. That was his style.

“I think I won, I don’t remember, it was a long fight,” Neil said. “But I remember after that game, I couldn’t hear for like three days. I couldn’t hear a thing. It was like my eardrums were damaged. It was so loud in that building.”

Neil later played hockey for the Quinnipiac Bobcats from 1998-2002. As a smaller player, he had to make up for his lack of size by being a “knuckle-dragger,” as he referred to himself.

He was the tough guy of tough guys, captain of the team in his senior year. He made his career by flying around, making hits and being the bad boy. But it came at a price.

Neil sustained concussion after concussion, almost all of which were left untreated. Hundreds of hits to the head, he estimates. He now regularly suffers from severe anxiety and an uncontrollable temper. Though he’s been sober for close to three years, he’s struggled with alcoholism in the past. Now convinced he has CTE, he knows what caused crippling damage to his head.

He couldn’t quit the thrill of thousands of fans erupting after every goal, every hit, every fight.

“That’s America, man. America wants blood, death and pain … and people are dying later behind the scenes,” Neil said.

Neil’s affliction made his everyday life a struggle that he had to find ways to navigate. Formerly a Connecticut resident that recently moved to Florida, he and his wife, Heather, lived out of a UHaul trailer for a short time.

After selling their Connecticut residence and before making their way to the Sunshine State, they took a detour to Nebraska to see Heather’s family, then eventually bought a house in Florida to complete the two-month road trip. They tried to make the best of it, turning it into a fun family expedition.

“We were supposed to do this fitness thing on the road, people were gonna follow us on YouTube and see how joyful it was to get stuck in a tin ******* can,” Heather said.

But Neil being cooped up in a confined space with his family wasn’t the answer to solving his mental health problems.

It was almost the end of his and Heather’s marriage.

“Well, obviously, we didn’t make one video because it wasn’t fun,” Heather said. “He’s driving and he’s pulling a 32-foot trailer behind us, we had kids screaming and this and that, like it didn’t help. It didn’t help his mindset at all. I didn’t think we were gonna make it.”

Heather fought through tears as she explained, in front of her husband, why she thought their marriage might not have lasted. They met when Neil was playing for Omaha, and Heather was a bartender. Their attraction blossomed through Neil’s presence on the local hockey team, and led to marriage which has lasted five years and is still going.

“Neil was the bad boy of the team, he fought a lot so he had his big fan section,” Heather said. “And I actually thought he was an *******. He still is an *******, I just married him now.”

Heather’s wisecracks are an important part of their connection. She described herself more than once as a “***** ***.” She likes poking fun at Neil, and he likes giving it right back to her. That was their thing for a long time while they were dating and during part of their marriage.

But when his symptoms reached their peak around the time of their move to Florida, the playfulness in their marriage evaporated.

“I say something ***** *** thinking I’m being funny, and it ****** him off or hurt his feelings or something and then he just flipped and he just screamed,” Heather said. “So for me to have to like, step back and walk on eggshells, it kind of feels like I’m put…”

“It’s like…” Neil, who was sitting beside her, interjected.

“This is my interview,” Heather playfully snapped back.

The interruption from her husband gave her a moment to regroup, as it was emotional for her to describe how serious Neil’s illnesses were. It was a real-time example of the connection that made them a match in the first place.

Heather used her humor to take a step away from her emotions, and while she laughed, just for a second or two, Neil made eye contact with her through the tears in her eyes.

Through the blurriness, Heather looked back at him.

Neil played for the Quinnipiac Bobcats from 1998-2002. He flew around for loose pucks and made headfirst hits — the dirty work few players want to take on. When he came off the ice for a line shift, the trainer would pull him aside after seeing him wobble to his spot on the bench.

He did whatever he had to do to get back on the ice.

“The mentality was, ‘Hey, Breener, how many fingers am I holding up?’” Neil said. “And I’ll be like, ‘I don’t know, I can’t see that far anymore.’ ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’ I’ll be like, ‘One, **** ***.’ And that’s funny right, like we laugh at that, but that’s literally how it was.”

Neil knew he took too many high hits without taking the proper precautions, and that the old-fashioned “finger test” was probably not enough. But his reason for keeping his injuries to himself was bigger than just wanting to play more minutes.

He was living his dream. As a small player, he knew playing professionally in a serious capacity was out of his reach. Playing NCAA hockey was his ultimate goal, second only to getting his tuition paid for. It placed Neil in a difficult situation when he skirted through the Swiss cheese concussion protocols.

“I knew that **** wasn’t right,” Neil said about the concussion protocol. “But I’m in the place that I’ve been trying to get to since I was four years old. So I’m not saying ****, I’m not gonna talk to the trainer. Like, **** no, my parents can’t pay for college. Various people have been like, ‘Dude, you probably shouldn’t play hockey anymore if you’ve had that many concussions, right?’ But when you’re a player that is getting their college paid for and you’re surviving, you’re chasing your dream, you don’t hear any of that.”

Huge strides have been made in recent years regarding the treatments of head injuries and concussions since the days of the “finger test,” which is now used more as a comedy bit than a medical examination. Dr. Robert Cantu, medical director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, has focused on concussion diagnoses in football and has found that hundreds of thousands of other athletes also misrepresent their concussion status.

“60% of (football players) said after the season, where there was no playing time involved and no coach had to hear what they said, ‘Yeah, I’ve had that during the season,’” Cantu said. “And a number of them said, ‘We’ve actually had that multiple times.’ The concussion rate for football at that time was around 5%. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of concussions were being missed.”

The new wave of concussion awareness challenged the age-old culture of being tough and staying out on the ice no matter what. Cantu said the average football player takes 800 hits to the head every season. Even though there are less direct head-to-head hits in hockey, the hits are at a much higher velocity.

But Neil’s career came before that awakening. Even though he said the athletic trainers took concussions seriously, there wasn’t a heightened emphasis on them like there is now. As a result, he became more familiar with the sensation of a concussion, thanks to fight after fight, hit after hit.

“Have you ever almost passed out?” Neil said. “You’re almost hanging upside down, and then you stand up really quick, and you get like this tingly kind of white fuzz? That happened all the time, when you made a really, really hard collision.”

The damage done to his brain has left a catastrophe behind. Crippling anxiety is a regular part of Neil’s life, even to the point where he can’t go inside a hockey rink. He had to give up coaching, a job he held in the USHL and NAHL, because he would “freeze up” every time he went near the ice.

His specific case was unique because he tried a flurry of different medications, and he said none of them worked. This happens to many others as well, but it put a stress on him and Heather. It frustrated her not knowing why Neil wouldn’t take his medication, because on the outside, she said it looked like they helped him.

But this was before Heather knew everything about her husband’s mental health. She didn’t know that even though the medication may have put on the illusion that they were working, his mind was still wracked with anxiety.

“To me, that doesn’t make sense,” Heather said. “It’s like, just don’t be an *******, just take the pill, you know? Because it worked from my point of view, because it calmed him down. But I didn’t know he’s fighting demons in his head.”

Since he kept his health issues to himself, she was left on the outside, wondering why he wouldn’t take something that she thought would help. But that’s part of what made Neil’s case so impactful. Wherever he turned, there was no help.

Every therapy session, every medication, every possible avenue was a dead end.

“We’ve had those discussions so many times, like, ‘Well, maybe you’re bipolar, and so let’s just up his dose of Zoloft, or you name it. Sertraline, or whatever,’” Neil said. “So, I’ve gone through all of that, and it’s all garbage, man. I can’t afford half the treatment that they want me to do now. And it’s rough, man. It’s rough on my family.”

Neil was the enforcer when he played in college and junior hockey. Back then, it was a job that needed to be done.

He obliged. Having the insight now on the damage players are doing to their bodies, it’s impossible for Neil to forget.

Seattle Kraken forward Mason Appleton, whom Neil coached during his time with the Tri-City Storm, was a recipient of that type of coaching.

“Breener taught me what it was like to play the game the right way,” Appleton said in a written testimonial for Neil’s business, Athletes and Coaches United. “He preached honest, two-way, hard nose hockey. The type of hockey that wins in the postseason.”

Appleton, standing at 6 feet, 3 inches, has the size that Neil never had. Formerly a Winnipeg Jet, Appleton was selected by the Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The knowledge he learned from Neil was a major reason Appleton’s NHL career continues to trend upward, and nhl.com analyst Dan Rosen noticed that trait.

“The Kraken clearly want forwards who are smart, physical, fearless, hard to play against, versatile and have offensive upside,” Rosen said.

“Physical” and “fearless.” Sounds familiar.

That’s how Neil taught his players. He wanted to impart in them the trait that made him successful during his playing days.

“To make it to the NHL, you gotta be tough, you gotta play hard,” Neil said. “And I had to coach that way for 20 years. I had to instill in my players that you had to play physical, you got to bang, you got to smash. And I want to take all of that back. It’s like this vicious cycle that you can’t escape.”

Concussions and CTE are now at the forefront of the injury conversation, and have been for a number of years. There have been plenty of stories of lawsuits and suicides of former players over the past half-century detailing how sports leagues needed to address the issue.

Even though concussion protocols were strengthened, medical science can’t solve the chief issue that leads to concussions: culture. Players from every sport have fallen victim to the agony of CTE and other mental illnesses resulting from head injuries, only because they didn’t speak up about it.

Neil Breen was an enforcer. There was no doubt about it. It takes some serious grit to fight a player nine inches taller than you on your very first night as a junior hockey player. He was tasked with being the junkyard dog of the team, meaning he had to be tough on the ice. But the lines get blurred between toughness on the ice and toughness off it.

At what point is it no longer tough to deny having concussion symptoms to trainers? Or to knowingly play through concussions? Or to refuse treatment for a head injury for a fear of losing playing time, just because you’re supposed to be the “tough guy?”

“The enforcers were shown to have a higher likelihood for CTE than people who just played the sport in a skill manner, say a Wayne Gretzky or something like that,” Cantu said.

College hockey was the light in Neil’s life. Once he was done living out his dream, he remained involved in the game through coaching. It was a pillar of his personality.

Now the light in his life is his family, who he said has “saved his life.” His wife Heather, his two children Jesse and Seamus and his chocolate lab-Weimaraner mix Howie are providing a solid foundation for the rest of his life.

But his love of hockey almost got in the way of all of that. Neil’s mental health struggles have changed him completely.

The guy who many saw as the nasty, hard-as-nails type has entirely shifted his priorities. Instead of the guy who would be at the very bottom of the scrum, Neil is now the guy who questions the very idea of contact in hockey.

Neil uses his story as a cautionary tale. If he could go back, he would do a lot of things differently. His anxiety, his depression, his short temper are all results of his relentless style. Now almost 20 years removed from the end of his college career, his reflection of his former glory days offers insight into one of the most prevalent issues in all of sports.

“Mistakes were made and they’re still being made,” Neil said. “I’m fresh off of being a coach in junior hockey and the idea of contact and taking that out of the sport, you get laughed at for doing that. And now I wish I never played hockey.”

Editor-in-Chief Michael Sicoli contributed reporting to this story.

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Concussion confusion, bobsledding and non-suicide pacts: CTE’s ripple effect throughout sports, and why there are so few

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Feb 15, 2022 7:23 am

Concussion confusion, bobsledding and non-suicide pacts: CTE’s ripple effect throughout sports, and why there are so few answers

Contributed by William Person

Riley Millette and Michael Sicoli
February 9, 2022

Note: This is the second part of a two-part series exploring the risks involved in contact sports and the dangers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Click here for part one.

Many have heard about the lawsuit against the NFL involving former players who killed themselves and were diagnosed with CTE. But fewer people know that former ice hockey players are suffering the same way.

Let’s paint the picture of Rick Rypien, a former NHL player who played six seasons for the Vancouver Canucks.

Rypien, whom the New York Times described as “scrappy” and the “best pound-for-pound fighter in the NHL,” was only 5-feet-11-inches and 190 lbs. Even though he was far smaller than the average hockey player, he was an enforcer on the ice, and it earned him a $1.1 million contract in 2009.

Rypien died by suicide in 2011 and was later diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Data from 2021 Journal of Concussion Vol 5. Graphic by Connor Lawless
Now imagine former Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey captain Neil Breen’s reaction reading that news. He’s a player with a very similar archetype — 5 feet, 9 inches and 190 lbs during his junior hockey days — a tendency to fight and overwhelming CTE symptoms.

While one can’t be officially diagnosed with CTE until they’re dead and their brain can be operated upon, Breen has checked almost every box.

“Pretty bad anxiety on the regular, pretty uncontrollable,” Breen said. “My temper is violent … I have days where I can’t even leave the house. I get this sense of extreme anxiety that’s hard to explain.”

Breen, 43, speaks in a bit of a haze. If asked a question, you will probably get more than one answer — Breen put it best when he shared that he “talked in pieces.” Brain injuries, like concussions, can affect communication to the point where regular, daily actions don’t feel the same. So when Breen connected with former Team USA bobsledder William Person, a connection that Breen said “saved my life and refocused my path,” it was a feeling both knew all too well.

Bobsledding and skeleton leave athletes vulnerable to a phenomenon referred to as “sled head,” a slang term for what scientists call a stretch injury. While riding in a bobsled traveling close to 90 mph, the force applied to a rider’s brain causes a wave to move through the brain and cause damage. Stretch injuries corrode the corpus callosum, the nerve bundle that connects the two hemispheres of the brain.

The highlighted area is the corpus callous, a nerve bundle that connects the left and right hemisphere of the brain. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Person, 51, is currently suing USA Bobsledding and Skeleton for allegedly not disclosing information about the long-term dangers of the sport, particularly with head damage. The New York Times picked up the story, which is how Breen and Person first started talking. Their relationship is what led Person to become a vocal proponent of concussion awareness outside of his ongoing legal situation.

“Breen gave me the courage and the permission to move forward and bring it to the spotlight,” Person said. “Before I filed that lawsuit, I would hide. I didn’t want my name talked about, I didn’t want to discuss it, I didn’t. I was very, very, very low-key, hoping that maybe I’m just gonna die in my sleep tonight. And maybe it’ll be just over.”

Person started as a track athlete, running sub-4.3 40-yard dashes and performing in the long jump. He had no inspiration to bobsled before trying out in Chula Vista, California, for the 2002 Summer Olympics. After setting a new record at the event, Person was offered $50,000 for three months of competition.

“I gave him an educated answer. I said, ‘Well, if it’s a fair price, I’ll do it,’” Person said. “But in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘50 grand for three months, sign me up.’ And that’s how I got started.”

That started a ride that would span nine years of intense competition. Bobsledding was a needed change-of-pace for Person, who enjoyed the new adventure. But between the crashes and the sharp turns came repeated blows to the head that plague him even now. Whether it was a “cloudiness” or “getting your bell rung,” it was just par for the course as a bobsledder.

“We didn’t have doctors out there. It was like, we slide, you crash, you just go back to the (top) — if you didn’t break an arm or a leg — you just went back to the top and did it again, that was your job,” Person said.

“We didn’t have doctors out there. It was like, we slide, you crash, you just go back to the (top) — if you didn’t break an arm or a leg — you just went back to the top and did it again, that was your job,” William Person (right) said. (Contributed by William Person)
Person knows he’s not the only one suffering from the effects — it’s exactly what he talked to Breen about — and that’s what drove him to file the lawsuit. It’s about saving those suffering before it’s too late.

People read about athlete suicides in the news all the time. For Person, some of those athletes like Steven Holcomb, who overdosed and died in 2018 after fighting depression for years, were friends. Scientists did not find CTE when they inspected Holcomb’s brain.

The topic of concussions and head trauma may linger in the spotlight as pro athletes call attention to it, but people like Breen never knew about this growing up. Most American hockey players start on the youth USA level, which requires a waiver to participate in.

The language used in a USA youth hockey waiver is tough to follow. CTE or long-term head trauma is never mentioned in the waiver. There’s bodily injury, paralysis, death, but there’s little mention of potential damages decades in the future. It is alluded to under the umbrella of ​​”damages which may arise therefrom and that (the signees) have full knowledge of said risks.”

Say that line three times fast. But that’s contract talk for parents signing their kids up for a contact sport they likely don’t completely understand. And why think too hard about it? Football is the only sport that causes severe head trauma, right?

The fear of brain damage has contributed to a decrease in football participants — a 2018 study by the University of California-Berkeley showed that a single season of high school football could change the structure of the teenage brain.

Meanwhile, the number of U.S. hockey players has almost tripled since 1990, according to a 2020 ESPN study. Signing your kid up to play is commonplace, something people don’t think twice about. Few think that signing their kid to play hockey or bobsled could lead them to severe mental illness brought on by repeated head trauma.

Data from 2021 Journal of Concussion Vol 5. Graphic by Connor Lawless
“In my opinion, (the waiver) should include the risk that you could heighten your chance for CTE from repetitive head trauma,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, medical director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

If Person had known the risk of bobsledding, he said he would have done things quite differently.

“That (first race) would have not happened,” Person said. “I would have not taken one trip. And then, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if I could go back.”

The real stories of people who are struggling with CTE symptoms are powerful, and there are a lot of them. But real stories told by actors is what helped accelerate the conversation even more.

The film “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, follows the real-life story of Dr. Bennet Omalu. He tried to bring to light the recent suicides and deaths of former NFL players, all of whom were posthumously diagnosed with CTE.

The abbreviation “CTE” is mentioned 10 times in the movie, and was referred to as “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” once. The word “concussion” is said 20 times.

Herein lies the confusion between concussions and CTE. Although the film did not mistakenly mix the two afflictions, their proximity in the world of athletic neuroscience has created confusion. Quinnipiac Medical Director David Wang, who has led field studies surrounding concussions and CTE, has tried to separate the two in the minds of the public.

“The movie is a great story, but it’s got the wrong title!” Wang said. “A concussion is a marker for somebody who gets hit in the head, it’s not a marker for who gets CTE.

“CTE is cumulative. We have these two tracks going: We have this concussion world, and we have the CTE world. And somehow, because of the way things are, people have melded them together.”

The flow of studies from medical professionals and high-profile media attention like “Concussion” have brought attention to these issues, but sometimes new information can cause some head-scratching. While concussions and CTE are often found in conjunction, studies that have tried to pinpoint causation between the two have been inconclusive.

Data from 2021 Journal of Concussion Vol 5. Graphic by Connor Lawless
In a study published by Current Pain and Headache Reports, only 84% of 92 participants found to have had CTE had a reported concussion history.

The average number of concussions reported in the same group of subjects was 17, suggesting that CTE is associated with multiple concussions. However, the remaining 16% of the group were found to have had CTE without a concussion history, possibly due to non-reporting.

Athletes failing to report or recognize their injuries creates an additional variable that has prevented scientists from finding a conclusive answer about how many concussions lead to CTE, or how they are directly linked.

With no concrete resolution and increased awareness on how contact sports affect the brain, high school and youth sports entered the crosshairs.

“Every parent is starting to think that a concussion equals CTE, and now we have massive confusion, and then we have hysteria,” Wang said.

On the surface, there are answers to the issue of CTE. Organizations like the Concussion Legacy Foundation and efforts from doctors like Wang have saved lives.

But the testimonies from those who have suffered through wars with their mental health tell a different story, and the scientific question marks only make their lives more confusing.

As a former hockey player at Quinnipiac, Breen was the ultimate “bad boy.” He played a tough brand of hockey and wasn’t afraid of making a hit or getting in a fight with anybody. He’s described times where he was knocked unconscious or has taken slapshots to the face, and there were few hurdles to clear in order for him to be back in the game.

Being allowed to play while concussed and banged up led to Breen’s current mental state, which has steadily improved over recent months. But there is still a constant roadblock that he can’t get past. He’s tried so many possible solutions, from abstract medical treatment to prescriptions to self-medication of marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms. None of them have worked.

Growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of solutions to his mental health problems, he reached out to his alma mater in search of help. He didn’t know how to feel about his illness, or who was accountable.

Data from 2021 Journal of Concussion Vol 5. Graphic by Connor Lawless
In an email to the Dean of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine Phil Boiselle, Breen offered his own body for a proposed Quinnipiac-run CTE project after explaining his mental health struggles.

“Let’s solve this problem together and change the sporting world … I took a great deal of trauma during my 4 years at Quinnipiac,” Breen wrote. “I’m not looking for anything but help. I know that our research can save many lives.

“I may never have gone to QU had I not been talented at the puck. But I gave my all, sacrificed everything to lead our boys, ours and your school to new athletic heights.”

Boiselle responded the next day, saying that Quinnipiac is “not currently equipped to do the types of multidisciplinary, multi-center studies that are necessary to advance the diagnosis and treatment of CTE.” He said that he wanted to be “helpful” and referred Breen to the Concussion Legacy Foundation’s website. Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan had nothing to add when contacted for comment by The Chronicle.

However, that is a route Breen’s all too familiar with. He’s met with neuroscientists, including the CLF, and hasn’t found an answer. The email was yet another reminder of the mountain in his way of recovery. And when that mountain was partially built during his time at Quinnipiac, it added an avalanche of frustration.

“I feel like Quinnipiac is responsible for the way I’m feeling right now. I mean, I don’t. I mean, should I?” Breen said.

Even though Breen has had symptoms for several years, he still doesn’t know who to blame, where to turn, who to ask for help. No one does.

“If you played college hockey, you probably played Bantam,” Wang said. “You played high school and everything else, maybe it was cumulative with that, too … I think it’d be very hard to assign responsibility to one particular sliver of time.”

Data from 2021 Journal of Concussion Vol 5. Graphic by Connor Lawless
Breen and Person have seen their lives become intertwined with CTE to the point where the two can’t be separated. Breen has had suicidal thoughts. Person set up a “non-suicide pact” with his teammates as a way for them all to look out for each other, but that doesn’t always work. The cycle continues. The decades-old cold war has stayed on its course.

Despite Breen and Person’s efforts through lawsuits, business ideas and social media interactions, a mountain stands before them. The base of the mountain is multiple centuries’ worth of toxic masculinity, hardheadedness and muscular culture that defined American sport in its infancy and continues to demonstrate its stranglehold on society.

The middle of the mountain is the scientific confusion surrounding CTE.

And the summit is cascading with red tape. Who is responsible? The leagues and organizations? The owners? The players? What will it take to make real change? How can we possibly remedy the loss of life that CTE has caused?

Then there are the curious cases of athletes like Holcomb, who suffer from depression and die, but are found not to have CTE. Should he be treated like a CTE victim while he’s alive? How do we draw a distinction between clinical depression and CTE-induced mental health struggles?

It’s a subject flooded with research, yet still so many questions. And until those questions are answered, athletes like Breen and Person will continue to come and go, defined by their unconfirmed yet confident diagnoses of CTE.

And most will go far too soon.

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