DETROIT (WXYZ) - Researchers at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTSE) at the Boston University School of Medicine have released a study indicating former Red Wings player Bob Probert as having Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy when he died, making him the second former professional hockey player diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease.
Bob Probert's family donated his brain to Boston University researchers after he died from a heart attack at age 45 in 2010. Dani Probert, his wife of 17 years, said, "his sole motivation was to make sports safer for our children. Bob was a great husband and father, and we miss him every day.”
Dani Probert adds that in conversations with her husband during the last year of his life, Bob Probert told her that he believed he had had three or four "significant concussions," but told her when he counted what he considered "getting his bell rung," which the researchers defined as consussions, the number went up to "over a dozen."
The Probert family requested the diagnosis be made public in an effort to raise awareness of the dangers of brain trauma in sports and encourage greater efforts to make sports safer for the brain.
The National Football League has taken measures to address concussions among players after recent research shed light on the impact on the health of former players. This newly released study now turns the attention to hockey and the issue of concussions and brain trauma in hockey.
“We are only beginning to appreciate the consequences of brain trauma in sports,” said Sports Legacy Institute Co-founder and CEO Chris Nowinski. “Early evidence indicates that the historical decision not to discourage contact to the head was an enormous mistake, and we hope aggressive changes continue to be made to protect athletes, especially at the youth level.” The CSTE is a collaboration between Boston University and the non-profit Sports Legacy Institute.
In response to the study, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "The findings are interesting and certainly something we'll add to a much broader body of knowledge. But we're not going to react or make changes based on findings related to one player, especially when its impossible to identify or isolate one of many variables that may have factored into the conclusions reached, and when there is no real 'control group' to which we can compare his results."
National Hockey League Players' Association released the following statement:
“Today’s announcement regarding the CTE diagnosis of former NHLPA member Bob Probert is an important piece of research that the Players, along with everyone else interested in the safety and well-being of hockey players, should consider seriously, along with other relevant research and data. We look forward to reviewing the full results of the study once they are made available.” Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director.
Probert joins Reggie Flemming as the only two former professional hockey players to be diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Flemming, who died in 2009 at the age of 73, had suffered from what has been described as worsening behavioral and cognitive difficulties.
CTE is defined as a degenerative brain disorder caused by repeated brain trauma, including concussions and multiple blows to the head, such as those found in contact sports. The disease can only be diagnosed by examining brain tissue after death.