Former NHL player Reggie Fleming, who played for the Flyers among five other teams and died in July, had brain damage due to repeated head trauma, linking hockey for the first time to a condition usually found in boxers, the New York Times reported yesterday.
Fleming, who spent 12 seasons in the NHL, was found by Boston University researchers to have had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a disease that causes cognitive decline, behavioral abnormalities and ultimately dementia, the Times said. Fleming is the first hockey player known to have been tested for the disease, which was also found in several former NFL players recently.
"Boxing we've known for a long time, football we've recently become aware of - now hockey," Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University who also diagnosed CTE in the former football players, told the newspaper. "Repetitive head injuries can have very serious long-term consequences, regardless of how you get them."
Deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly told the Times the league would have no comment until it had a chance to review the report.
Fleming, who died at age 73, had 108 goals, 132 assists and 1,468 penalty minutes in 749 career games with the Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and Buffalo Sabres. He helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 1961, and also spent two seasons with the World Hockey Association's Chicago Cougars.
Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg, the team's leading scorer, will be out at least two weeks after suffering a slight left shoulder separation against the Lightning.
The 29-year-old Swede was helped off the ice late in the first period Thursday night after taking a check from Tampa Bay's Mattias Ohlund. Detroit already is without Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Jason Williams, Niklas Kronwall, Dan Cleary, Darren Helm and Jonathan Ericsson because of injuries.
Zetterberg has 10 goals and 22 assists in 34 games.