Bob Probert knew the fierce pounding he dished out and received over 16 seasons as an NHL enforcer was taking its toll as he got older. That's why he wanted his brain to be analyzed once he died. Even though heart failure ultimately ended his life last July at age 45, Probert also was living with a damaged brain. Researchers at Boston University said Thursday that Probert had the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The disease was found through analysis of brain tissue donated by Probert.
He is the second hockey player from the program at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy to be diagnosed with the disease after death. Reggie Fleming, a 1960s enforcer who played before helmets became mandatory, also had CTE.
CSTE is a collaboration between Boston University Medical School and the Sports Legacy Institute that is attempting to address what it calls the "concussion crisis" in sports. The group has been at the forefront of research into head trauma in sports, and has received a $1 million gift from the NFL, which it has pushed for better treatment of concussions.
The family of former Bears safety Dave Duerson agreed to donate his brain to the study after he committed suicide last month at the age of 50.
During his years as one of the most feared players in the NHL, Probert had 3,300 penalty minutes — fifth on the league's career list. He was the toughest and most prolific fighter of his time. Probert, who struggled to overcome drinking problems during his time in the NHL, played for the Detroit Red Wings from 1985-94 and the Chicago Blackhawks from 1995-2002.
"We are only beginning to appreciate the consequences of brain trauma in sports," said Chris Nowinski, the Sports Legacy Institute's co-founder and chief executive officer. "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." Read More