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The New York Times
Monday, December 5, 2011 -- 5:17 PM EST
Hockey Player, 28, Had Brain Disease Linked to Hits to the Head
Derek Boogaard, a former National Hockey League player, had a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma when he died in May at age 28, according to researchers.
The disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, widely known as C.T.E., is a close relative of Alzheimer's disease and has been diagnosed in the brains of more than 20 former football players. It can be diagnosed only posthumously.
The researchers at the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy who examined Boogaard's brain said the case was particularly sobering because Boogaard was a young, high-profile athlete, dead in midcareer, with a surprisingly advanced degree of brain damage.
"To see this amount? That's a 'wow' moment," said Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and a co-director of the center.
Boogaard was one of the sport's most feared fighters, filling the role of enforcer for the Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers. Over six seasons in the N.H.L., he accrued three goals and 589 minutes in penalties. On May 13, his brothers found him dead of an accidental overdose in his Minneapolis apartment.
The degenerative disease has been found in the brains of all four former N.H.L. players examined by the Boston University researchers. The others were Bob Probert,, who died at age 45; Reggie Fleming, 73; and Rick Martin, 59.