A little bit late on this topic, but in the Friday edition of the sports section of the Asbury Park Press, a column by Devils beat writer Andrew Gross ran regarding Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy became the first active NHL player to pledge to donate his brain, upon his passing, to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a Boston-based research group. The Concussion Legacy Foundation does research into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a disease brought on by years of concussions and other brain trauma suffered by athletes and people in other professions, such as the military.
He joins former NHLers Craig Adams (who played with Lovejoy on the Pittsburgh Penguins), Keith Primeau, Shawn McEachern, Bob Sweeney and Ted Drury who have done likewise. Primeau was the first to do so, in 2008.
Gross quoted Lovejoy as saying “I have had incredibly high-profile superstar teammates [Sidney Crosby] struggle with concussions and I’ve had minor league role players struggle with concussions. I think it’s something that affects everyone in our sport.”
Lovejoy, 33-years-old, has played ten years in the NHL for Pittsburgh, Anaheim and the Devils and “considers himself lucky” to “have had very little brain trauma” in his career. But “science” he said was what got him to go ahead with pledging his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The Foundation is, according to Gross, a “recruiting arm of partnership with Boston University and the Veteran’s Administration to create a brain bank” and “more than 2,500 former athletes and military veterans have pledged to donate their brain to the foundation since 2008.” Gross notes that Lovejoy is “one of the more than 1,000 who have done so in 2017.”
The Concussion Legacy Foundation’s co-founder and CEO, Chris Nowinski has a very interesting and unique background. A graduate of Harvard University, he wrestled professionally for a time with WWE before concussions put an end to his career there. He went on to help found the Concussion Legacy Foundation and shares one major thing in common with Lovejoy: both are Ivy League educated. Lovejoy attended Dartmouth and, as Devils coach John Hynes was quoted in the article as saying, “Ben is a bright guy. I think he’s got a vision for the future and the fact that he made that decision is not a surprise.”
Lovejoy stated that while he saw that many NFL players were donating their brains to research, no current NHL player had yet to do so. He said that while he will direct players who have questions or want to learn more to Nowinski, he will not try to recruit them. He stated that this is a personal choice and something that “is a sensitive issue.” Lovejoy will, however “work to raise awareness for CTE research and support the foundation.”
It is also a timely issue for the Devils. Marcus Johansson just got back into the lineup after missing a month due to a concussion suffered back on November 1 when the Devils were in Vancouver. He missed a total of 13 games according to Gross.
Hockey is a rough sport and any research that can be done as to the affects of it on the human body will greatly serve future generations of players and the quality of life for players of this and past generations that will or have retired. Kudos to Ben Lovejoy for the step he is taking in trying to improve that future.