Probert had brain disease

Probert is the second former NHLer to be diagnosed with CTE. The other was Reggie Fleming, who died...

Probert is the second former NHLer to be diagnosed with CTE. The other was Reggie Fleming, who died in 2009 at the age of 73 with dementia. (QMI File)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:59 PM ET

Bob Probert had the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy when he died at age 45 of a heart attack last year, The Sports Legacy Institute announced Thursday.

Probert played 16 seasons in the NHL, and was best known as an enforcer.

He was diagnosed with CTE by neuropathologist Ann McKee, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine.

"Early evidence indicates that the historical decision not to discourage contact to the head was an enormous mistake, and we hope aggressive changes continue to be made to protect athletes, especially at the youth level," Chris Nowinski, co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, said.

The CSTE brain bank contains 68 specimens, including that of former NFLer Dave Duerson who committed suicide two weeks ago. McKee has completed the analysis of the brains of 40 former athletes, and more than 30 have shown signs of CTE, including 13 of 14 former NFLers.

Probert is the second former NHLer to be diagnosed with CTE. The other was Reggie Fleming, who died in 2009 at the age of 73 with dementia.

Probert wanted his brain donated to research, his wife, Dani, said.

"His sole motivation was to make sports safer for our children," Dani Probert said.

She said her husband exhibited a mental decline during his 40s.

The former hockey player believed he had three or four "significant concussions," Dani Probert said, although when he counted what he considered "getting his bell rung," which by definition are concussions, he suffered more than a dozen.


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