MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) –- The family of former Wild hockey player Derek Boogaard, who was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment Friday, donated his brain to medical researchers in Boston to try to determine if his rough and tough NHL career contributed to his death.
The examination of a brain can reveal many things, from chemical abnormalities to the loss of brain cells, says University of Minnesota researcher Dr. Kelvin Lim.
“To examine the brain tissue microscopically or through various types of techniques gives us a completely different window in terms of what has happened to that brain,” Lim said.
Lim oversees a collection of nearly 700 brains, all of which were donated by the Sisters of Notre Dame. It is hoped that study of the brains and the journals written by the nuns will offer clues into the mystery of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The brain imaging technology Lim uses in his research could potentially be used to diagnose the damage done to an athlete’s brain. Boogaard’s family hopes that medical technology can reveal whether or not the concussions Boogaard suffered played a role in his death.
Boogaard suffered considerably from concussions. Last year, Boogaard sat out much of the hockey season due to concussions.
Researchers hope to turn what they are learning into techniques to improve and preserve the quality of life for those with brain injuries. Researches also hope to figure out how long those with concussions must sit on the sidelines to avoid more severe injuries or brain damage.
“One of the key pieces is [learning] how … the brain recovers,” Lim said.
Brain injuries seemed to have played a role in retired NFL player Dave Duerson’s suicide. He left a request for medical researchers to look for clues to his unbearable state of mind. An exam of his brain found chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that can cause memory loss, cognitive impairment and depression.
Doctors advise active people to wear protective sports gear whenever appropriate, because some debilitating injuries can only be seen after the brain is taken out for a closer examination.