TORONTO – NHL Alumni and a Toronto neuroscience institute are teaming up on a study to track the brain health of retired players.
The Rotman Research Institute is recruiting former NHL players to participate in the study. The aim is to identify risk factors linked to cognitive decline and mental health changes as the players age.
Retired players will undergo testing to determine baseline mental status, lifestyle habits such as substance abuse, chronic health conditions and a detailed concussion history.
They will also undergo MRI scans, and blood and fluid samples will be collected to look at genetic factors and other biomarkers linked to dementia.
The former players will have follow up cognitive testing and structural brain scanning with MRI every three years.
This study follows the largest and most detailed analysis of concussions in the NHL, which was recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
The analysis, which looked at seven regular seasons from 1997 to 2004, found 559 concussions during regular-season games. That is a rate of 5.8 for every 100 players, or an estimated 1.8 concussions per 1,000 player-hours.
Findings released earlier this year by Boston University revealed that former enforcer Bob Probert suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Probert died of a heart attack last July at age 45.
In March, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced new concussion protocols that involve players who display symptoms being given a test by a doctor in a quiet location before returning to the ice, rather than trainers doing an exam on the bench during a game.
Last year, the NHL adopted a new rule that bans blindside hits that target the head of an opponent, but the league's general managers decided against an outlaw of all head contact.