The Tragic Diagnosis They Already Knew: Their Brother Died With C.T.E.

Jeff Parker, who played in the N.H.L. from 1986 to 1991 and died last year at age 53, will be seen as another link between hockey head hits and C.T.E.; the league has denied that such a link exists.

Comments: 31

  1. This is tragic, and the NHL needs to get a grip and step up. It also broke my heart when he called his mom crying because he did not want to be the fighter. But reading the last paragraph......it should really be about NOT letting them bare-knuckle fight. A few rules changes and a culture change could make the sport a lot safer so those who play don’t have to worry about old age that never comes or is awful to live through.

  2. Players in any contact sport, whether it's football, hockey, boxing, or aggressively played soccer, are at risk of brain trauma and the sad fate of Jeff Parker. The idea that these sports can somehow be made "safe" is fanciful. As a society we need to refuse to be a party to such devastation. Refuse to be a fan and give economic support to these sports. Don't go to games or matches; don't watch them on TV; and let the leagues and owners know why you've made this decision.

  3. I suppose we should give up watching marathons and track events because participants sometimes die of sudden cardiac arrest? (e.g. Ryan Shay and the 4 people I have personally seen die at marathons and half-marathons) All sports, indeed all activity, or even inactivity, have risk. Hockey must take steps to lower the risk of the type of injury sustained by Parker and many others. You are right, it will never be completely safe, but nothing is completely safe. To suggest people stop participating in or watching events that aren't perfectly "safe" is as ill-informed as Gary Bettman's denial of the CTE risk in hockey.

  4. Nothing is completely safe; we can all die at any moment; but the NHL and NFL have denied the inherent large risk of brain damage in their sports.

  5. I am married to a man who started 10 years in the NFL. I can assure you that if you were living the day in and day out of what we are now, you’d want the NFL to burn in flames. The dramatic changes to my good husband are devastating, shocking, and incredibly heartbreaking to see (he’s only 43, mind you). It’s all even more difficult to deal with when you have the medical community saying, “we don’t know what what works yet...” We have 4 young kids. They will not be engaged in contact sports. We know too much... we live it.

  6. I just don't understand this league. The longer they continue to deny the link, the more they will likely have to pay in the future as more and more players can claim that the league did not warn them. Accept that CTE is real, that contact sports cause it, and that you play at your own risk. Take steps to eliminate head shots( which are far more responsible for concussions than fighting). Provide services and health insurance to former players suffering with the disease. Acknowledging CTE won't ruin hockey, it will simple confirm what we already know.

  7. Olympic hockey does not tolerate fighting and it is to me the most interesting to watch of any hockey. That NHL players were able to play in Olympic hockey without resorting to fighting shows that the violence isn't part of their game if it is not tolerated. The fun part is the skill shown by the players and the fast pace of the action. Fighting and violence is not necessary to make the game interesting. As a child I listened to hockey on the radio, and since the announcer did not mention the fighting I didn't even know it was part of the game until I began watching it on TV. The games are much better without it

  8. It's not the fighting. It wasn't a fight that permanently paralyzed Travis Roy.

  9. This paragraph is part of the story. He was asked to fight for the team. "Professional coaches immediately saw an additional role for Parker. At an early practice, awaiting a face-off, he was told to fight, his family said." “I remember him calling my mom, and he was crying,” Scott Parker said. “He didn’t want to do that. He just wanted to be a hockey player. It was a role bestowed on him.”

  10. There really needs to be less punching, and the players really do need to wear full face masks because slamming will always be part of the game (at least in part due to physics). I saw the Penguin's jaw break on Tuesday. A mask would possibly have protected him.

  11. First off, my condolences to the Parker family. Scott is the local high school hockey coach where I live. Next, as a parent of two hockey players who are currently high school age, I am really concerned that the NHL essentially states this is not a problem. These kids look up to, and dream of being like them. Stop the fighting, stop the checking, play the game clean. Protect your investment in these players, protect them and their families. We love hockey and will watch without the injuries that can clearly become catastrophic. As a nurse, too often I see patients with traumatic brain injury, and hear their family talk about who their child or spouse was. I see the daily struggle they face. The glimpse of hope they get on a good day.

  12. The NHL's current actions do nothing to decrease its exposure to losing a lawsuit. Permitting and excusing hits to the head as it has done this week with the Washington Capitals Tom Wilson show the league sees no value in player safety. They prefer the explosive hits to the head over the speed and symmetry of skating. The league won't change until they lose a 6 figure lawsuit.

  13. Gary Bettman's response to the clear evidence of the connection between shots to the head and permanent brain damage is disgraceful. Unlike most of us, Mr. Bettman apparently views the tobacco industry CEO's as his heroes. He is making demonstrably false public statements for corporate profit at the expense of the health of the athletes who give their heart and sole to make the NHL a great league. No, you cannot eliminate all risk of head injury in a contact sport like hockey. Yes, you can make reasonable changes to the rules and to the enforcement of existing rules to make the game as safe as possible, while keeping the essence of the sport alive. Lying about the head injury risks associated with hockey as cover to keep the dangerous status quo shows that Gary Bettman is willing to sacrifice the future of young men to ensure that his owners maximize profits. Shameful.

  14. Why do we have to wait for people to die to get this conclusion? Isn't there some way to image this information while the person is still alive?

  15. My long career as a pediatrician leads me to agree that the idea that certain sports can be made "safe" is nonsense. It doesn't take external "hits" to cause concussions and brain damage: "coup-contracoup" injuries, in which the brain hits the front/back or side/side of the inside of the skull can come from sudden deceleration caused by the athlete themselves. For example, women's volleyball is a sport with significant concussion rate, because of dives to the floor with resultant "whiplash" action and coup-contracoup. Damage is also age- and gender-related, because of differing skull/brain/spine anatomy. It's mind-boggling to me that, knowing what he experienced with his own brother, Scott Parker continues to coach youth hockey. Some sports just aren't worth the risk to play and thoughtful parents are beginning to steer their children away from them.

  16. Wow - can the NHL not see how very wrong they are? Denial worked so well for the NFL.

  17. Reader Horace takes the argument against aggressive sports to its ludicrous extreme. Should we not make improvements in equipment and rules? It's like saying we should give up driving cars because people are injured or die in car accidents. There's a lot of room between driving and no driving for improvement, such as harsh DUI penalties, air bags and other car design improvements, and signage and design changes to roads. Same thing has been done with airplanes.

  18. The general public doesn't drive automobiles or fly in airplanes professionally for competitive points and pay...the comparisons are illogical and non-sequitur...

  19. You must have not read the part of my comment that said, "Hockey must take steps to lower the risk of the type of injury sustained by Parker and many others." Sheesh.

  20. Bettman is despicable and needs to be thrown out of his job. Of course the owners dictate everything and their passive and criminal behavior is the real issue.

  21. As a spectator sport Hockey is dull, especially on television where the puck is hard to see and goals occur in a blur of bodies. The hard hits and brutal fights give the game an alluring excitement that breaks up the incessant, tedious back and forth flow -- yet the violence injures brains. Conclusion: time for moral values to override lust for thrills and money -- sending hockey back to the Canadian ponds where it belongs.

  22. Better than the baseball. Can't wait until we can get a real sport on TV.

  23. This story shows why the NHL was right to suspend Tom Wilson for his high hit on Zach Aston-Reese in the current Washington-Pittsburgh series.

  24. Actually what is depressing is that it may not have been a "high hit" according to the rules but it is certainly the "type" of impact that causes severe injury even if legal under current rules. Rugby has been somewhat slowly coming to the realization that players brains are actually precious and severely modifying the game.

  25. The ice hockey I watch now compared to what I watched as a kid is completely different. Helmets, visors, much less fighting--it's improving, but the NHL has to deal with its legacy. Fighting should be banned, but it is infrequent as compared to years before. However, there are many times players hit their heads and badly, inadvertently or otherwise, that will be difficult to remove from the game. It is played at extreme speeds surrounded by barriers. Hockey is an exciting game, it would be no less exciting without fighting. The NHL has to make good on the past and its former players.

  26. I agree that, in certain respects, it is safer - helmets, visors and a decrease in fighting helps. But the reality is that the size and speed of the players today often leads to vicious head trauma that is accepted as part of the game. The current rule is vague and unclear. Sometimes almost identical hits to the head are called as a penalty; sometimes they are worthy of a suspension; and sometimes the same type of hit is seen by refs and the NHL as clean. Have to start calling penalties and suspensions for all hits to the head.

  27. there is no reasonable defense for contact football, hockey, boxing, etc. Just modern day gladiators for public entertainment. I never understood the interest or enjoyment that folks get out of watching these sports. And don't get me started on 'cheerleaders'...in this #metoo, #timesup environment, I hope the days are numbered.

  28. Why isnt anybody talking about banning boxing and MMA? The whole point is to bash and batter the opponents head until they fall unconscious.

  29. So tragic it's unbelievable - except it isn't. I'm old enough to remember ice hockey played in the 1960s - in Sweden. No fights, no arguments - all clean. And STILL - you tell me some of those players don't have CTE? Börje Salming? I beg to differ. Every fall, every tumble you take on the ice means danger to your brain. That's all there's to it.

  30. Mr.Bettman would be an ideal spokesman for the oil industry and the new EPA.

  31. Can we all agree that hits to the head are not sport?