Former NHL player Jeff Parker diagnosed with CTE
(Boston) – Former National Hockey League (NHL) player Jeff Parker, who died in 2017 at the age of 53, has been diagnosed with severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) by researchers at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, a collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs, Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The results are being released by his family with the goal of raising awareness of CTE and driving support to former athletes who are struggling.
Parker played 137 games over five seasons in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres and Hartford Whalers. In college he was an NCAA Champion with Michigan State in 1986.
Parker’s struggle with CTE symptoms during life was chronicled in the media before he died from an infection in his lungs and heart. Parker was forced to retire from the NHL after suffering two concussions in 15 days in 1991 while with the Hartford Whalers. After the injury he reported ringing in his ears, headaches and sensitivity to light. Later in his life he struggled with mood swings, decreased hearing and taste, and vertigo. Parker had Stage 3 CTE of out a possible 4 stages, with Stage 4 the most severe neuropathology. Those concerned about CTE are urged to learn more about the disease at ConcussionFoundation.org/CTE.
"Jeff Parker's brain was at such a stage that the disease was taking over his brain," said Dr. Ann McKee, director of the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank. "It didn't matter what he did from here on in, the disease was just going to get worse and worse."
Parker is the seventh former NHL player diagnosed with CTE, and the sixth at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, along with Derek Boogaard, Bob Probert, Reggie Fleming, Rick Martin and Larry Zeidel. No former NHL player has been studied after death and tested negative for CTE. VA and BU researchers also have diagnosed CTE in four former amateur hockey players, none of whom reached the NHL.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued their first fact sheets on CTE for the public and for health care providers. According to the CDC, “CTE is a neurodegenerative disease that is associated with changes and deficits in cognition, behavior, mood and motor skills. It is believed to be caused in part by exposure to repetitive head impacts, including concussions as well as subconcussive trauma.”
The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, founded in 2008, is the world’s largest CTE brain bank with subspecialties in concussion, ALS and other consequences of brain trauma. More than 555 brains have been donated, resulting in over 325 CTE diagnoses, more than 70 percent of confirmed CTE cases globally.
Current and former hockey players have pledged their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation to support CTE research. The list of pledges includes current New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy, former NHL players Keith Primeau, Shawn McEachern, Craig Adams, Bob Sweeney and Ted Drury, and Olympic gold medalists AJ Griswold, Angela Ruggiero and Hayley Wickenheiser. Last week former Chicago Blackhawk Eric Daze also made the pledge. More than 3,300 former athletes and military veterans have pledged to donate their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Those who are interested can make the #MyLegacyPledge at ConcussionFoundation.org/pledge.