Why Help Retired Pro Hockey Players?
Playing professional hockey is often portrayed in glamorous terms, but it’s also extremely hard on the body. The cumulative effect of large men skating at high speeds and crashing into each other or being slammed into the boards takes its toll on the body’s joints, the nerves and soft tissue like the discs in the back. Many who played the game at the professional level will need orthopedic procedures such as hip or knee replacements, and almost all of them deal with some form of long-term pain left over from their playing days. This is compounded by the fact that any injury to a weight-bearing joint (like the knee or hip) is approximately six times more likely to develop arthritis later in life. Organizations like Dignity After Hockey help provide support for retired players who are enduring debilitating injuries long after their careers have ended and are not getting enough from the league.
Dignity After Hockey is an organization that helps former pro players who make a fraction of what today’s NHL stars make. Tim Ecclestone, who played for the Atlanta Flames in the 1970s, was paid a salary that was never higher than $75,000 per year. Although Ecclestone has been able to open a bar in the Atlanta area, other former players from that era, earning less than 6 figures a year and many left with permanent disabilities, haven’t been as fortunate. These poorly compensated players from that era are dealing with health issues that Dignity After Hockey is helping to address.
One area of the body that takes the brunt of a professional hockey player’s punishment is the back. NHL players can suffer from arthritic spines in retirement as their backs have incurred cartilage lesions. This leaves behind scar tissue which becomes more inelastic as the players age. When the discs in the back begin to herniate, a surgical procedure must be performed to fuse the vertebrae in the spine to allow for a full range of movement. Former NHL greats like Mike Bossy had to end their careers early because of deteriorating backs. Even arguably the greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, dealt with herniated discs in his back during his playing career. Dignity After Hockey can help players who are having a hard time standing up after their careers are over.
Dignity After Hockey can also help provide support for those dealing with post-concussion symptoms. Concussions can dramatically impact a retired player’s decision making and cause mental health issues like depression. Many NHL players have retired due to suffering too many concussions, including Blake Geoffrion, Paul Kariya and Eric Lindros. Former LA Kings forward Bernie Nicholls, now 54, deals with daily bouts of vertigo, headaches and memory loss. An organization like Dignity After Hockey has had to pick up the slack that the NHL has left behind. The NHL has continued to maintain they don’t want to engage retired players in a concussion settlement the way the NFL has settled with former players for $765 million. There is enough evidence to suggest that repeated trauma to the head, as is often a consequence of players colliding, can cause a degenerative condition in the brain known as CTE. This head trauma can ultimately lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.</p>
Dignity after Hockey was founded by Kurt Walker to help former professional hockey players. If you’ve watched professional hockey and appreciate the joy that these men have brought to your lives, please consider donating to http://www.dignityafterhockey.ca