Derek Boogaard became one of the most revered players in the short history of the Minnesota Wild as the defenseman enforced his way through five seasons with the team. When the 28-year-old was found dead earlier this year, it caught a lot of people surprise.
It maybe shouldn't have, however, as the defenseman was suffering from the degenerative brain disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, according to a recent article in the New York Times. The disease, better known as CTE, has become increasingly prevalent in hockey and football players who have suffered numerous concussions.
It did not take long for Dr. Ann McKee to see the telltale brown spots near the outer surface of Boogaard's brain - the road signs of C.T.E. She did not know much about Boogaard other than that he was a 28-year-old hockey player. And the damage was obvious.
"That surprised me," she said.
The degree of which Boogaard's brain was infected, however, is startling.
The group may now have its most sobering case: 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," McKee said as she pointed to magnified images of Boogaard's brain tissue. "This is all going bad."
The degenerative disease was more advanced in Boogaard than it was in Bob Probert, a dominant enforcer of his generation, who played 16 N.H.L. seasons, struggled with alcohol and drug addictions and died of heart failure at age 45 in 2010.
Hopefully the experts are able to figure out how to slow the disease down before it takes any more athletes from us at too young of an age.