In a May 12, 2015 article in the New York Times, it was announced that the surviving family of former NHL player Steve Montador planned to sue the NHL for wrongful death. Montador, who played for seven teams in his 10-year career, including the Florida Panthers, was found dead in his home in February of this year. The cause of death has not been made public. However, an autopsy has shown that Montador suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the family feels CTE led to his death.
What is CTE?
CTE is a disease that currently is not very well understood. It is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people who have a history of repetitive brain trauma including both symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head. CTE has been in the spotlight lately due to notoriety garnered from lawsuits against the NFL and NHL. Currently, more than 70 former NHL players are involved in a class-action lawsuit alleging, among other things, that the NHL hid or downplayed concussion risks to players.
It is believed that CTE occurs when a person suffers repetitive brain injuries. For an unknown reason, after repeated injuries occur, the body deposits tau proteins in portions of the brain. The deposits then cause dysfunction within the brain, leading to symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, impulse control problems, aggressive behavior, depression and progressive dementia. A number of professional athletes who posthumously have been found to have suffered from CTE have, in fact, committed suicide. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after the death of the individual although diagnostic tests are under development that do not require post-mortem analysis.
Who Is At Risk Of CTE?
Some believe that all athletes in contact sports are at risk. While only the smallest percentage of athletes go on to be professionals, many of them began playing their chosen sports at young ages. Most professional soccer, hockey and football players play from the time they are 6 or 7 years old through the end of their professional career. Clearly, playing a contact sport for 20 to 25 years carries some risk of injury and the risk to football and hockey players may seem apparent. After all, the object of defense in football is to have a high-speed collision with the opposing ball carrier.
In some sports, however, the risk may be more subtle. There has been a number of high-profile soccer players whose careers have been ended because of concussions. Whether from heading the ball, inadvertent head-to-head or head-to-ground contact or high-speed ball contact, concussions are very prevalent in soccer. Add in the fact that soccer is the most played youth sport in the United States and the risk becomes incredibly widespread and real.
If you suspect that a loved one has suffered from CTE or any other traumatic brain injury, it is imperative you contact a legal professional. Depending on the situation, you may be entitled to recover medical costs and damages for pain and suffering and wrongful death. It is, however, a very complex legal area and you need experienced legal professionals to help sort out the situation. Give the knowledgeable Tallahassee personal injury attorneys at Fasig & Brooks a call today at either (850) 222-3232 to set up your free initial consultation. We have years of experience in personal injury litigation involving traumatic brain injuries.