By Ken Reed
The NFL and NHL have similar concussion problems, and similar approaches to the concussion issue: denial and avoidance behavior.
For years, the two professional leagues denied they had a significant problem related to concussions. Then, as the concussion issue came to light and the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) began to receive more attention in the media, the two leagues implemented an avoidance behavior strategy. If we ignore it (and hide it), it will go away.
Well, as we know now, the issue didn’t go away. The NFL was hit with a class-action lawsuit brought by former players that claimed the league concealed information about the dangers of concussions. The NHL is now dealing with a very similar lawsuit.
Meanwhile, former players in both leagues continue to suffer from the aftereffects of concussions and repetitive blows to the brain.
In the NHL, the problem is especially acute with former enforcers (aka thugs), whose primary purpose for being on NHL rosters was to protect the star players on their teams by fighting opponents on the ice.
Once retired, many former NHL enforcers suffer from symptoms common to CTE, including memory loss, depression, wild mood swings, impulsiveness, addiction, headaches, etc. The list of former enforcers dead before the age of 50 is growing and includes Bob Probert, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak, Steve Montador, and Todd Ewen.
John Branch, a writer for the New York Times and author of a provocative book on the sad life of Boogaard, recently wrote an excellent feature article on another struggling former NHL enforcer, Stephen Peat. CTE can’t be officially diagnosed until after death, but Peat has all the classic symptoms: memory loss, headaches, moodswings, etc.
“Hockey’s been the greatest thing in my life, but it’s also been the worst thing in my life,” Peat said.
“It was great while I was playing, but what has it done lately? My peers of enforcers have become statistics and the N.H.L. is in denial. They’re denying that the job I did even existed, even though I sacrificed my quality of life, my well-being and my future greatly by being there for my teammates in the present. I don’t think the coaches or anyone was thinking of me 10 years down the road when they were pushing me out there to fight, you know what I mean?”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and other top NHL officials, have privately acknowledged that fighting could lead to concussions and long-term health issues, including depression, according to emails discovered as part of the ongoing court battle with former players.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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