Senator Presses NHL Commissioner for Answers on Concussions

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D – Connecticut) is pressing the National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman to come clean with answers regarding the NHL’s stance on concussions. Specifically, Senator Blumenthal chided Bettman over comments which he believed to be “dismissive” about the link between head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease which made headlines during the National Football League concussion litigation in recent years.

While the NFL has admitted to a link between CTE and playing football, Bettman has made no such concession linking the disease to playing hockey. In Blumenthal’s letter, the Senator references six NHL players – Derek Boogaard, Reg Fleming, Bob Probert, Rick Martin, Steve Montador, and Larry Zeidel – whose brains have been determined to contain evidence of CTE. He goes on to propose nine questions directly to Bettman, pressing him for answers regarding an admission of the link between CTE and playing hockey, whether he is considering changes such as removing fighting from the sport in order to protect players, and whether players have been adequately informed of the dangers of head trauma in the sport, among other inquiries.

This is not Senator Blumenthal’s first foray into protecting Americans from the dangers of concussions. He spearheaded the Youth Sports Concussion Act legislation, which ensures safety standards for sports equipment based on the latest science and curbs false advertising claims from sports gear manufacturers.

Bettman does not appear to be budging on his stance. He commented to Sports Illustrated earlier this week, saying that fighting may actually make the sport safer by protecting against other injuries. He described fighting as a “thermostat in the game,” preventing other kinds of dangerous cheap shots from occurring in the “very physical, fast-moving, emotional, edgy game.”

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