Chicago Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at the time of his death last year, a postmortem study revealed on Friday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Mikita played for the Blackhawks from 1958-80, and was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 1983. He died last year at 78.
Boston University CTE Center director Dr. Ann McKee conducted the study and revealed its findings on Friday night at the request of Mikita’s family. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 CTE, one stage below the most severe form.
CTE is a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head, often found in NFL and NHL players. It can cause memory loss, violent mood swings and other complications, though can only be found after death. Per the report, Mikita is now the eighth former NHL player to be diagnosed with CTE at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, joining Derek Boogaard, Bob Probert and Reggie Fleming, among others.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, per the Associated Press, has long denied a link between repeated blows to the head and CTE. More than 300 retired players reached a nearly $19 million settlement with the league last year after filing a lawsuit accusing the NHL of failing to protect them from head injuries, per the Associated Press.
“The NHL is nowhere on this,” McKee said, via the Associated Press. “They have completely denied a link. They have denied any responsibility, and it’s clear they are just protecting the bottom line.”
Mikita currently holds multiple Blackhawks franchise records from his 22-year stint with the team, leading the organizations in points, assists and games played at 1,396. He scored 541 goals, and helped lead Chicago to the 1961 Stanley Cup title.
He had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia before his death, a disease with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. The Concussion Legacy Foundation honored Mikita with its Courage Award on Friday night.
“We hope Stan Mikita’s pledge and CTE diagnosis will inspire greater participation in research from the hockey community,” CLF founder and CEO Dr. Chris Nowinski said, via the Tribune. “Without greater participation from the hockey community, we have little hope for treating or preventing CTE within our lifetime.”
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