NHL Star’s Brain Donated to Brain Injury Study

Derek Boogaard, a National Hockey League player for the New York Rangers, died recently of unknown causes. His family made the decision to send his brain to the Sports Legacy Institute at Boston University Medical Center for study. Results showed that Boogaard died of a tragic overdose of oxycodone and alcohol months after a traumatic brain injury led to a concussion.

NHL Star’s Brain Donated to Brain Injury Study

Boogaard’s helmet is off as he fights an opposing player.

In what would be his final hockey game, Boogaard received a blow to the head hard enough cause a concussion that took him out of play for the remainder of the season. He never had a chance to play hockey again, because he died a few months later. His family hopes that Boston University Medical Center can learn more about traumatic brain injuries by studying the player’s brain.

The Sports Legacy Institute

The researchers who accepted the brain donation hope to learn more about how concussions can damage an athlete’s brain. They have studied the brains of many athletes from different contact sports, like hockey and football. The Institute exists to learn how they might protect athletes from such injuries. Researchers may suggest new protective gear including helmets, new rules and different playing surfaces to help reduce the number and severity of head and other sports injuries.

Right now, doctors do not always know what to expect from a brain injury. With more research, the doctors could develop better ways to treat different types of brain injuries so that the long-term symptoms become less severe. In addition, they can learn more about how to protect younger players entering the game from suffering injury in the first place.

Long Term Brain Injury Symptoms

Most people with mild brain injuries recover within the first few weeks after injury. Dr. Sarah Rockswold is the director of the Hennepin County Medical Center’s Mild to Moderate Brain Injury Program in Minneapolis, MN. “About 85 percent of people with mild traumatic brain injuries get over it in the first week to two weeks, but there is that 15 percent that do not,” explains Dr. Rockswold. “You can have emotional symptoms — depression, irritability; physical symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light.”[1] Some patients may go on to acquire chronic traumatic encephalitis (CTE) or shrinking of the brain.

Concussion May Have Contributed to Death

Another symptom that may have contributed to Boogaard’s death is poor decision making.[2] This had been the player’s third concussion. His family notes that he struggled with pain and addiction for years. Those with a history of emotional difficulties are more susceptible to the problems that can stem from brain injuries. Although the press fails to make the connection, those with a full understanding of traumatic brain injuries believe that the concussion contributed to the player’s death.

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If you or someone you love suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, contact our office right away. Our skilled attorneys can discuss your legal rights and options with you.


[1] http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/minnesota/boogaard-brain-goes-to-groundbreaking-researchers-may-16-2011

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15941371

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