Contributed by Darena Muça
This past January, the McGill Research Group on Health and Law hosted its annual lecture, “Brain Injuries in Sports: from Awareness to Action,” delivered by Ken Dryden. Dryden was a goal tender for the Montreal Canadiens hockey team during the 1970s. In 1973, he graduated from the McGill Faculty of Law; however, he never practised law. Besides being a renowned hockey star, appearing in the Hockey Hall of Fame and winning 6 Stanley Cups, he is an educator, politician and philanthropist dedicated to educating youths about the importance of higher education and raising awareness about sport-related brain injuries. In his presentation, Dryden shared his perspective that more steps ought to be taken to prevent brain injuries in the sport. In consideration of Dryden’s lecture, this article sheds light on the difficulties of holding sports organizations liable for brain injuries in sports.
Looking into brain injuries
Contact sports can have dramatic impacts on the structure and function of the brain due to repeated body contact. Nathan Churchill, a post-doctoral fellow in the neuroscience research program at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, emphasizes that “there is growing concern about the risk of collisions in sports.” He notes that the effects of contact sports are not only seen in retired professional athletes, but also in young, healthy athletes in amateur and professional sports. Athletes with a repetitive history of blows to the head can suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease, which is also found in the brains of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. CTE causes several cognitive, mood and behavioural symptoms, such as memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The term TBI was first introduced analyzing professional and amateur boxing, while CTE encompasses the “potential long-term neurological consequence of repetitive TBI” which can occur in numerous contact sports, such as football, wrestling, rugby, hockey and basketball. Continue reading “Liability for Brain Injuries in Sports”