Hockey players Tim Jackman, left, and Brad Staubitz get into a fight during… (Jeff McIntosh / Associated…)
A strongly worded editorial in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal calls for the end of fighting in the National Hockey League, saying the risk of intentional head trauma is too great to stand by and watch these guys pummel each other.
In "Stop the violence and play hockey," neurologist Dr. Rajendra Kale, the journal's interim editor-in-chief makes the case that allowing fighting in the sport and risking major, permanent head trauma is not worth it, despite how popular it may be with spectators.
Head injuries and brain damage among hockey players have been in the spotlight lately, fueled most recently by a report that former New York Rangers player Derek Boogaard, who died last May from a drug overdose, showed signs of early chronic traumatic encephalopathy after an autopsy of his brain.
CTE is a neurolgical condition caused by repeated head trauma that can cause brain degeneration and symptoms such as aggression, anxiety, slow reaction time, depression, loss of memory and confusion.
Kale's enough-is-enough stance is based not only on Boogaard's case, but also on the fact that CTE was found in the brains of hockey players Rick Martin, Reggie Fleming and Bob Probert. Boxers have long suffered from this condition, also known in that world as dementia pugilistica or punch drunk syndrome.
"Supporters of fighting argue that it has always been integral to hockey. This brutal tradition should be given up now that research has shown that repeated head trauma can cause severe progressive brain damage," he writes.
Some make the argument, Kale notes, that if fighting were banned game attendance would fall considerably. He counters by pointing out that fears that smoking bans might cause restaurant and bar customers to flee never materialized, and since then, rates of heart attack and lung disease-based hospital admissions have dropped.
"I call on all doctors to support a ban on all forms of intentional head trauma and endorse deterrent penalties in hockey," he writes, wondering how many brain autopsies it will take before NHL players are convinced they're at risk for brain damage. "Should we not stop the violence now and get on with the main objective of hockey, which is scoring goals?"
Would you still watch hockey if fighting were banned? Or have you stopped watching it because of the fights? Let us know.