Traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that the family of the late professional hockey player Derek Boogaard recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NHL. Boogaard suffered a number of brain injuries during his career, which led to his dependence on pain killers and sleeping pills and ultimate overdose.
Boogaard tragically died in 2011, at the age of 28, and was posthumously diagnosed with Stage II Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This neurological condition has been a hot subject in recent years, and is also at the center of the highly publicized lawsuits against the National Football League. CTE is a degenerative brain condition that is associated with repeated blows to the head.
His family's lawsuit asserts that, during Boogaard's career, the NHL knew or reasonably should have known that players in Boogaard's position had an increased risk of brain damage from concussions and brain trauma. Consequently, these men were also significantly more at risk of developing dependencies on pain killers. Indeed, during the 2008-2009 season, Boogaard was given more than 1,000 prescriptions from NHL physicians, dentists, and trainers for his ailments.
Players like Boogaard in the position of enforcer in the NHL deter the opposing team from engaging in dirty play and injuring their team's best players. Boogaard was involved in dozens of fights during his career for the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers, undoubtedly contributing to his brain trauma and consequent addiction.
Boogaard played his last game for the New York Rangers on December 9, 2010, during which he sustained a concussion. It is important to note that Boogaard's lawsuit could have far-reaching implications, not only to his family but to NHL and NFL players in general. The NFL is currently swamped in court by more than 4,300 former players filing lawsuits over head injuries.
Boogaard's lawsuit called his death a preventable tragedy and a foreseeable consequence of brain damage and addiction. Undeniably, his concussions were only barely treated, and his prescriptions were unlimited. When Boogaard chipped a tooth, NHL staff prescribed him 432 pills of hydrocodone - the main ingredient in Vicodin - in one month.
In another incident, he was prescribed 150 pills of Oxycodone, essentially a synthetic heroin, in a 16-day period. He also received at least 13 injections of Toradol, which inhibits the body's ability to feel pain. He quickly fell into serious addiction, and was admitted to rehab and subsequently an NHL-required follow-up program that forbade any opioid use. Despite this, the NHL prescribed Boogaard narcotic pain killers another 17 times during the follow-up program.
Subsequently, Boogaard returned to rehab a second time, again to no avail. Some speculate that NFL doctors and trainers were merely trying to get him back on the ice, not looking out for his best interest. His family is also alleging the NHL allowed Boogaard to compete while downplaying or outright ignoring the risk of further injury.
These risks are not exclusive to the NHL and NFL, however. Experts are now taking a look at snowboarders, skiers, and boxers who also suffer repeated blows to the head, particularly in the professional ranks. These athletes admit that there is a blasé attitude among snowboarders in their teens and early 20s who feel a sense of invincibility when attempting tricks and speeding down hills.