Is Fighting on the Way Out?
Posted By: Aaron Sims
Is fighting going to end in hockey during our lifetime?
Researchers at Boston University announced Thursday that a study of former NHL tough guy Bob Probert’s brain tissue revealed he had the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
, a former teammate of Admirals head coach Lane Lambert, died at 45 last summer from a heart condition.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920s. However, recent reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE in retired professional football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement. The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.
Dr. Robert Stern, co-director of Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University's School of Medicine, reminds in a USA Today story, "What we believe is that repetitive brain trauma is necessary for CTE to develop but it is not sufficient," Stern said, "Some people with repetitive brain trauma get the disease and some people don't. So there must be other factors that put people at greater risk."
I remember doing a talk show several years ago after Baseball Hall of Famer Jack Buck passed away. Buck suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. A doctor I interviewed said studies showed that people that drank well water were more inclined to contract the disease. Certainly, there are more studies to be done regarding CTE. What we do know is brain trauma, at least, contributes.
Can the game be changed? We had ice, then skates, then a stick and puck, then fighting. While a vast majority of players don’t rack up five fights a season, they would almost all agree that fighting is part of the game.
Physical play is necessary. Is fighting?
Fighting is used as a momentum-turner. If my team is playing a sloppy game and finds itself down by a goal or two, I’ll head out and pick a fight. If I show my teammates I’m willing to battle, hopefully they’ll answer the call and we’ll get a win.
Fighting also occurs if someone is taking too many liberties on the ice. A LOT of players will say the game polices itself. If fighting were removed, the game would get chippier.
Fighting is also entertaining. I’m not saying everyone enjoys the fights, but almost everyone watches.
Football players are in the news lately with CTE. Former Bears safety Dave Duerson asked for his brain to be donated for research. Football players suffer their injuries with helmets. Hockey players suffer injuries while wearing helmets, obviously, but the helmets are discarded during fights.
Helmets can be improved. We can add more padding, more shock absorbers. You can’t do that to a bare skull.
Fighting has been on the rise over the last five seasons. According to hockeyfights.com the number of fights since the NHL lockout looks like this:
Season # of fights
With more knowledge and more studies and more concern for their own welfare, maybe we’ll see the number of fights start to dip. Moreover, perhaps after more years of sampling, we may see the game eliminate fighting altogether.
What do you think?
This season, 11 players have played for both the Admirals and Predators. Last season, that number was 13.
On our return trip from Toronto, former NHL player and coach Craig MacTavish sat a few rows behind the team. Admirals assistant coach Ian Herbers had the chance to visit with MacTavish once we got off the plane in Chicago. Herbers and MacTavish were teammates with the Edmonton Oilers. We also flew on the plane with a guy that wore a top hat. That was cool. I’ve never seen a guy in a top hat that wasn’t on a stage. He didn’t have a walking stick, so it brought the coolness down a smidge. Still, it was cool. Herbers did not talk with him, by the way.
I leave you with a solicitation. I am going to shave my head March 12 at the Brat Stop in Kenosha to support St. Baldrick’s Foundation–a volunteer-driven charity that funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization in the world except the U.S. government–more than $14 million in 2010 alone. If you can donate, it would be greatly appreciated. Join us and Let's CONQUER! Look for me at http://www.StBaldricks.org/
. Thank you for your consideration.