Ice hockey is considered one of the most violent contact sports, but the National Hockey League (NHL) begged to differ when it was faced with a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that the league hid the dangers of head injuries from professional players and encouraged aggressive behavior in the games. The NHL argued against the collective knowledge of medical experts and scientists by arguing there is not a link between repeated head blows and the much-talked about degenerative brain disease CTE.
Researchers have found that when a brain is concussed, proteins called tau are released in the brain. Repeated head blows result in the release of more tau, leading to the buildup of the protein in certain areas of the brain, resulting in a condition researchers named chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degeneration of the brain and dementia-like symptoms including cognitive impairment, memory loss, aggregation, and mood swings.
Last month, the NHL filed a motion to compel the Boston University CTE Center to hand over materials regarding its research and diagnoses of CTE. The center is the foremost research facility for CTE and has diagnosed the condition in several deceased football players. (Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously.) The NHL also provided an affidavit from an expert witness who disputed the research at BU’s CTE Center.
The NHL knows that the CTE issue could result in significant liability for the league. Recently, the National Football League (NFL) reached an uncapped settlement with former football players over head injuries which covered a number of neurocognitive issues. The fund could pay out as much as $1 billion.