Is our love of hockey enforcers killing them?

Earlier this year, former Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard died from a combination of painkillers and alcohol. Rick Rypien, was found dead in his home in Alberta on Aug.15, an apparent suicide. Earlier this week, Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto hotel on Aug. 31. His mother says he suffered with depression and anxiety.

Is there a link?

A neurosurgeon says a study of NHL enforcers has found serious brain injuries. Dr. Robert Cantu tells CBC News

We’ve studied several deceased NHL players who were enforcers and the two that we brought public so far — Reggie Fleming and Bob Probert — both died with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

We have also had a number of brains come to us, mostly from NFL players who committed suicide, and their brains have shown chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

So anytime I hear of an athlete who has had a lot of head trauma who commits suicide, I am immediately concerned that chronic traumatic encephalopathy may have played a role. And I would like to study their brain to see whether the presence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy is there.

Cantu says chronic traumatic encephalopathy makes it difficult to handle depressive emotions, and depression is linked to suicide.

He says NHL enforcers told him that about one out of every four or five times they fight, they suffer what sounds like a concussion.

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