Today the NYT published a story about hockey player Derek Boogaard, who died from drug and alcohol overdose at the age of 28. This wonderfully written piece details how the family agreed to let researchers examine their son's brain post-mortem. What researchers found was frightening, a level of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that had never been seen in someone so young. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that is similar in symptom presentation and tissue loss to dementia. So, in this case imagine the brain of an 85 year old with Alzheimer's dementia in the the body of a 28 year old. Higher rates of CTE are seen among athletes in contact sports, more so in those who have a history of fighting or concussions.
That being said, what should sports leagues do about this potential threat? Does hockey try and curb fighting? Does the NFL do more to keep athletes with concussions out of action until they have fully recovered? Or, do we say that it's all part of the game, and who are we to mess with tradition?