Enforcers can be some of the most fearsome athletes in all of sports, yet many of them are/were gentle giants off the ice. Bob Probert’s death shook up many people beyond his family as the somewhat troubled but widely beloved pugilist touched many lives.
Perhaps his biggest impact could come in a somewhat queasy, but nonetheless important gesture by his family after his death. The Probert family decided to donate Probert’s brain to further concussion-related research according to A.J. Perez of NHL Fanhouse.
The family of Bob Probert donated the brain of the former NHL tough guy to a group of researchers at Boston University who have studied the link between head trauma and debilitating heath effects in football players and boxers.
Unlike several NFL players who battled through psychological impairments due to repeated concussions, Parkinson said he couldn’t recall any such issues in his son-in-law.
“I’ve known him from the 17 years he was with my daughter and I didn’t notice a change in character,” said Parkinson, the police chief in Cornwall, Ontario.
Probert did struggle for years with drug and alcohol abuse, even serving a three-month jail term after a 1989 arrest when he was caught entering the U.S. from Canada with a small amount of cocaine. Probert also had been arrested for scuffles in bars and even had one incident where police need a Taser to subdue him.
Nowinski said elite hockey players — especially now that fighting is rarer than it was just a couple decades ago — aren’t exposed to the amount of hits to the head as football players, but dangers still persist.
As writers such as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out, some of the largest concerns regarding concussions (at least in the NFL) come from the frequency of near-concussion-like hits just as much – if not more – than the scary, big ones. Hockey’s concussion problems are considerable (just look at Peter Mueller’s situation and Marc Savard’s struggles), but the one thing the sport has going for it compared to other contact sports like football is that the collisions are at least a bit less constant than the kind of brain mashing that goes on between NFL linemen and other bulk-impact positions.
That being said, the NHL and other leagues cannot bury its head in the sand on this issue. It is a little creepy to imagine Probert’s brain being used for science, but hopefully the researchers learn enough to help athletes avoid some of the scariest effects of head injuries in the future.