There is currently a multi-district class action lawsuit against the NHL over NHL player brain injuries that is being allowed to proceed. See the order. In the multi-district lawsuit an amended complaint was filed on January 15, 2016. The amended complaint alleges that the NHL should have been aware of the growing body of scientific literature discussing the cumulative effects of concussions (or “MTBI”, minor traumatic brain injury), and also that the NHL was aware of the danger of repetitive concussions because of various incidents. The complaint alleges among other things that the NHL promoted a culture of violence and failed to adequately warn players of the dangers of repetitive concussions.
It is reasonable to presume that many NHL players in fact suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”) another point made in the complaint in the multi-district litigation. CTE can only currently be diagnosed through the examination of the brain following death. Recently, the family of Steve Montador, an NHL player who died at the age of 35, announced that they were going to sue the NHL. Montador’s brain was found to have widespread CTE, as reported by the New York Times article by John Branch. So far CTE has also been confirmed in the brains of at least four other NHL hockey players: Bob Probert, Reg Fleming, Derek Boogard and Rick Martin.
CTE can cause a wide range of problems, such as memory loss, depression, anxiety, aggression, suicidality and other problems. A good place to start to learn more about CTE is the Boston University CTE Center. In Oregon, another resource is the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon. In Washington, there is the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington.
The amended complaint in the class action suit recites some of the history of complaints by some of the NHL’s top players of the violence in the game that was promoted by the organization. That included Bobby Hull complaining of the violence in 1975 saying ” . . . it has become a disaster. . .” (Amended complaint, par. 287) A commissioned study by a Canadian Lawyer, William McMurty, in 1974 concluded that the advertising and selling of the game was overemphasizing the fighting, according to the players. (par. 286). The amended complaint also refers to several other incidents. An objective examination of the promoting of the game of hockey should conclude that it involved an emphasis on the physical fighting aspects. The league allowed and promoted a culture of enforcers and fighting, where not only the actual fighting, but also the malicious elbows, slashing and cross checking were allowed to proliferate in order to encourage fan attendance and viewership.
The class action lawsuit seeks for the NHL to take some accountability and provide for monitoring and treatment of brain injuries, and other forms of relief. If you are a former NHL player in Washington or Oregon who believes they have suffered brain injury, contact Brad Schrock of Schrock Law Office PC for a free consultation, at (503) 626-3087.