BOSTON (CBS) — Former Blackhawks enforcer Bob Probert suffered from the same degenerative brain disease that has gained attention for its prevalence in NFL football players, according to published reports.
Probert died of heart failure in July of last year, at the age of 45. He was an enforcer on the Detroit Red Wings from 1985 to 1994, and for the Blackhawks from 1995 to 2002.
The New York Times now reports that researchers at Boston University examined Probert’s brain tissue and found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE.)
Boston University was also the recipient of Bears Super Bowl safety Dave Duerson’s brain. Duerson committed suicide last month, and his family is convinced that he suffered from CTE.
The degenerative disease is tied to depression, dementia and suicide. Duerson’s family pastor, the Rev. Ed Brown, said said that at the end Duerson suffered from short-term memory loss and found it increasingly difficult to speak or compose sentences.
In Probert’s case, the cause is not believed to be the game of hockey itself, but his well-known penchant for brawling on the ice, the New York Times reported. While Probert scored 163 goals in his career, he was so well-known for his fighting that he was named the greatest enforcer in hockey history in a 2007 poll by Hockey News, the newspaper reported.
The New York Times says the tolerance and encouragement of fighting in the NHL “will almost certainly be tested anew” in light of the findings in Probert’s brain.
The Windsor, Ont., native, also got into plenty of trouble off the court. He was charged with driving drunk several times while playing for the Red Wings, and also served six months in federal prison for trying to carry cocaine from Canada into the U.S. in 1989.
In 2009, Probert dropped the ceremonial puck before Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference Final between Detroit and Chicago.
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