Montador Sues the NHL Due to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by lawyers for a professional athlete, his family claims that the National Hockey League’s encouragement of on-ice fights induced Steve Montador to continue behaviors that ultimately led to his death.

When a scan of this career hockey player’s brain revealed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the NHL and the NHL Board of Governors. Montador, a former hockey player with the Blackhawks, was found dead in his home almost a year ago.

Since the arrival of the RDV Sportsplex Athletic Club in Maitland, hockey is surging in popularity with Central Florida youth and adults. Attendance at Orlando Predators games has grown as well. It’s important to recognize that both professional and amateur athletes in the Orlando area face the same risks for chronic traumatic encephalopathy as full contact football players do.

Another 2008 wrongful death case highlights the dangers: A UCF football player died after a “punishment” workout. Like hockey, football is a full contact sport that excites audiences with intense physical contact.

As Orlando attorney Jeff Badgley of Badgley Law Group comments, “We need to balance the fundamental nature of these sports with the need to observe safety for players. Death isn’t an unacceptable price for tipping that balance towards “the game” vs. safety. Sports fans should be rewarded with great games, and athletes should be rewarded with long, healthy lives.”

Underscoring the issues at hand, in 2010 the Canadian Safety Council wrote: “The never-ending incidents of on-ice thuggery are turning hockey into our most dangerous game. Horrible incidents – such as the recent head shot by Patrice Cormier on Mikael Tam in a Quebec major junior game – call to mind everything that is wrong with hockey…”

In a New York Times article about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League, said, “Of course, the ideal number of concussions would be zero. Our objective is to come as close as possible to getting that result without changing the fundamental nature of our game.”

Yet, violence on the ice persists.

Montador’s family lawsuit alleges “The NHL’s insistence upon preserving and promoting violence in spite of the obvious dangers caused, or contributed to cause, Steven R. Montador’s brain damage, addiction and depression.”

The question, then, is: If the ideal number of concussions is zero, why does hockey on a professional level continue to allow fights?

It’s simple. Fighting draws fans.

If you’re the parent of a child who plays hockey or football, the risks of the sport should be considered, especially if your child is driven to aspirations of playing through college and beyond.

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