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Death of 28-year-old hockey pro shows full impact of head injuries

Derek Boogaard was regarded as one of the best 'enforcers' in the NHL. An enforcer is a hockey player who isn't on the ice to score goals or make assists, but to willingly drop his gloves and fight the opposition.

Sadly, Boogaard accidentally overdosed on painkillers and alcohol in 2011, at the young age of 28. It isn't a simple story about a young celebrity who was overwhelmed with addiction, however. Boogaard's surviving family donated his brain for scientific study and it revealed that he young man was already suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

CTE is a nasty disease characterized by mood swings, dementia, depression and addiction. Traditionally, it's been known to victimize former athletes who played violent sports like football, hockey and boxing. Terrifyingly, as scientists have learned more about CTE they have determined that it often manifests from repeated head impacts that are less noticeable than concussions, such as when a soccer player 'heads' the ball.

Because sub-concussive impacts don't result in concussions and telltale symptoms such as blacking out, they may go totally unnoticed by the victim - at least right away.

An athlete can play a sport his or her entire life and never experience a concussion, yet he or she may end up suffering from CTE. At this time, there is no way for doctors to detect CTE in a living person.

If you have a child in youth sports, speak with the coach or athletic director (AD) about sub-concussive hits. Concussion awareness is on the rise, but sub-concussive injuries are not getting the necessary attention.

Source: NPR.org, "'Boy On Ice' Explores The Emotional And Physical Toll Of Dropping The Gloves," NPR Staff, Sept. 26, 2014

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