NHL Investigates Link between Trauma & Mental Illness

From Left to Right: Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien

Do hockey fights inevitably lead down a road to mental illness? That is what the National Hockey League is investigating as Wade Belak of the Nashville Predators has been named the third professional hockey player to pass away since May due to an apparent suicide.

There is more to it than just fights, as you may guess. It is more of the constant punches and shots to the head that are leading league investigators to believe there is a link between head trauma and mental illness, which unfortunately makes sense. Since Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien were all enforcers and known fighters, they most certainly faced a few blows to the head and some of those blows could have severed something deep in the brain.

As we all must remember, concussions and brain injuries are still relatively unknown. A recent study found that some football players and boxers can suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain disease caused by continuous blows to the head over time.

“It’s not like every enforcer in the NHL has gone on to have this happen, the same way not every lineman in the NFL goes on to have dementia,” states Dr. Alan Hoffer, assistant professor of neurological surgery and neurocritical care at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. “I think for all of these things there’s an individual susceptibility that’s based on someone’s genetic makeup as well as any potential injury they’ve had in the past.”


Private services for Wade Belak will be held Sunday, Sept. 4 at 2 p.m. at Woodmont Christian Church (3601 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215).
In lieu of flowers the family will accept donations to The Andie and Alex Belak Scholarship Fund. Checks may be made payable to Woodmont Christian Church/Belak (3601 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215).


Information provided by the Associated Press.

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