This is my first season as a Sports Therapist in Professional Ice Hockey and it’s a fantastic sport,- quick, exciting, skilful with supreme fitness and athleticism required to participate at elite level.

I’ve also learned pretty quick that fights are part and parcel of the game, and reminds me of the movie slapshot with Paul Newman.

Ice hockey fight

I have wondered about what the repetitive fighting does to the team ‘tough-guy’ who can fight up to 30 times or more every season – both NHL player Bob Probert and pro hockey player Reggie Flemming were diagnosed with the brain disease, CTE – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

We don’t yet know if it’s the game or the fighting which might have caused it , but for that reason it seems important that further research is done on the disease.

The effects of CTE ripple out far beyond the individual too.  In his 40s, Dani Probert said, her normally laid-back husband may have begun to show some of the tell-tale signs of CTE, such as odd bouts of road rage and memory gaps.

“If he was playing blackjack, he could remember plays from years ago, and every player’s hand and what the dealer had. But boy, if you asked him what he had for breakfast that morning … It definitely makes you think.”

With growing evidence of the debilitating effects of head injuries on sportsmen, there is currently fierce debate across the sporting world on the need for rule changes and better concussion protocols.

As a sports therapist, I welcome these debates : with the correct rehabilitation,  bone and muscle damage is usually temporary.  The brain is another matter.