A recent study by Columbia University in New York has revealed that so called “enforcers” in the NHL die 10 years younger than their fellow hockey players do.
The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association,, analyzed data from 6,039 NHL players from 1967 to 2022.
The definition the study used for an “enforcer” is any player who was involved in more than 50 fights in their career.
The hockey players were then compared to others who were drafted at the same rank, were of similar height and weight, and played the same position, reports the CBC.
“Being an NHL enforcer was associated with dying a mean of 10 years earlier and more frequently of suicide and drug overdose than matched controls,” the study reads.
While the number of deaths among NHL enforcers was not higher than their peers, “being an enforcer was associated with dying approximately 10 years earlier and more frequently of suicide and drug overdose than matched controls. Re-emphasis on player safety and improving quality of life after a hockey career should renew discussion to make fighting a game misconduct penalty in the NHL.”
Of the 331 players the study classified as “enforcers,” 21 have passed away. Two died of a neurodegenerative disorder, two overdosed on drugs, three committed suicide, and four died due to car crashes.
In the control group, only one of the 24 players who died passed due to any of these causes – a car crash.
Derek Boogaard, who played for the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers, was cited in the study as one example.
Boogaard died of an overdose at age of 28. He was later diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
The mean age of death for the “enforcers” was 47.5 of age, while the control group was 57.7.
In another group of players who averaged three or more penalty minutes per game over their careers, the mean age of death for the heavily-penalized players was 45.2 years, while the control group had a mean of 55.2.