By Cara Bahniuk
Thursday, New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy pledged to donate his brain to CTE research. In doing so, Lovejoy becomes the first active NHL player to publicly announce his intentions.
Lovejoy, who has played in the NHL for 10 seasons so far, has been lucky with head injuries, but has seen concussions affect many of his teammates.
Lovejoy will donate his brain to the Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation after his passing. The study done on his brain will help the research into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, popularly known as CTE. More than 2,500 brains have been pledged to the foundation, including 1,000 in 2017 alone.
CTE is a brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others who has undergone a history of repetitive brain trauma.
After the Devils practice on Thursday, Lovejoy spoke about his decision. He follows in the footsteps of former NHL players Keith Primeau, Shawn McEachern, Bob Sweeney, Ted Drury, and Craig Adams in his pledge.
“I have had incredibly high-profile superstar teammates struggle with concussions and I’ve had minor-league role players struggle with concussions,” Lovejoy said to Andrew Gross of northjersey.com. “I think it’s something that affects everyone in our sport.”
Lovejoy is likely referring to former Penguins teammate Sidney Crosby. Crosby has missed 114 career games due to concussions, his most recent being suffered during the Capitals 2017 playoff series.
Lovejoy had one simple reason for his donation: science.
“Three or four years ago, I told my wife that when I die, I wanted my brain to be donated to the VA concussion doctors,” Lovejoy said. “I wanted it to be studied. I am a believer in medicine and a believer in helping the future. I thought I was good and that was it, I had pledged. This summer I read an article saying how many NFL players had pledged their brain and how many people had pledged and there were no current NHL players.”
Chris Nowinski, the CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, reached out to Lovejoy when he saw his name on an online pledge form. He is confident they will find a cure, hopefully before they need to use Lovejoy’s brain, but Lovejoy hopes his donation will raise general awareness for CTE research.
“If people have questions and want to be involved, I will direct them,” Lovejoy continued, insisting he won’t force others to pledge. “This is a personal choice that I’ve made. I don’t like to tell people how to handle their bodies. If people are interested, I will absolutely direct them to Chris. This is a sensitive issue and I’m sympathetic to that. This is my brain and I’m choosing to do what I want with it when I’m done.”
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