Bob Probert, a Canadian forward who played for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks from the mid-'80s to 2002, is the latest pro athlete to be posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disease that's linked to depression, dementia, and occasionally suicide. Just last month, a former Chicago Bears player named Dave Duerson killed himself, suspecting that he too had CTE.
In light of recent events, the NFL has taken measures to change some rules to limit head injuries. The NHL has, for some time, also been aware of the issue, but still seems hesitant to ban fighting altogether. The New York Times reported that teams continue to employ and reward players like Probert, who are known as enforcers because of how they intimidate opponents.
Granted, that's definitely not the case when it comes to kids' and teen hockey ...
I would think most parents would have a field day if they knew coaches were purposely bringing on kids who were known for having short fuses. But, at the same time, young players -- especially teen guys with raging hormones -- can easily get into confrontations or accidents on the ice anyway.
Hockey moms I know say they're aware of the fact that their kids could suffer an injury via mishap (a skate blade to the neck or getting checked into the boards). That's probably the most likely scenario. But, of course, there's always the chance their kid encounters a nasty, "enforcer"-type player and things could quickly escalate and get violent. Fighting does happen and can get out of control, especially if refs aren't all that experienced and fail to step in quickly.
And then there's what happened to Probert, Duerson, and many other hockey and football players ... When news about CTE comes to light and tons of sports talking heads are giving their two-cents about what the NFL and NHL need to do NOW, I wonder how the parents of young players feel. Do they think twice about letting their kids play? Do they worry that the rules on their child's hockey league are too lax? Or do they figure, for the most part, the adults involved will see to it that kids are looked out for ... that fights don't go on long enough to lead to injury?
It turns out the hockey moms I know fall into the latter camp. They feel pretty confident that their kids are, for the most part, safe from the kind of pummeling that has appeared to lead to CTE.
The bottom line is that hockey is a rough sport, but there are rules that are enforced to keep young players safe. It seems silly to worry that the game is just too darn risky for kids to play at ALL. I love hockey, and if I ever have a son, I'd certainly allow him to play someday. The pros of hockey, to me, certainly outweigh the cons. But, given cases like Probert's and Duerson's, it seems there's no harm in parents knowing what their kids could be up against.
Do these cases of CTE affect how you feel about your kids playing football or hockey?
Image via NHL.com