The family of professional hockey player Derek Boogaard has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the National Hockey League (NHL), accusing the organization of subjecting Mr. Boogaard to severe trauma and then loading him up on potent, highly addictive prescription painkillers.
Mr. Boogaard died in May 2011 while taking Oxycondone and drinking alcohol at the same time. He had been playing for the New York Rangers for one year at the time of his death after having spent his first five season with the Minnesota Wild. He was 28 years old.
Medical researchers at Boston University performing a posthumous analysis of Mr. Boogaard’s brain were stunned to find he had a highly advanced case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) for his young age. CTE is a degenerative brain disease that researchers believe comes about as a result of repeated concussive and sub-concussive jolts and blows to the head. Over time, repeated head injuries — even seemingly innocuous concussions — can have a cumulative, damaging effect on the brain and its chemistry.
Although CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously, its symptoms may be clearly recognizable in life. Depression, confusion, cognitive decline, mood swings, and other forms of emotional and mental decline usually haunt CTE victims.
The Boogaard family filed the lawsuit last week in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.
“To distill this to one sentence,” an attorney for the Boogaards told the New York Times, “you take a young man, you subject him to trauma, you give him pills for that trauma, he becomes addicted to those pills, you promise to treat him for that addiction, and you fail.”
Mr. Boogaard sustained a concussion in the last hockey game he played on December 9, 2010. According to the New York Times, his family’s lawsuit describes the treatment he received under care of team doctors and officials with the NHL’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.
The lawsuit parallels lawsuits filed by thousands of former professional football players and their families who are suing the National Football League (NFL). The plaintiffs contend the NFL knew about the dangers of repeated concussions but failed to communicate those risks to the players and protect them from developing debilitating brain diseases.