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Derek Boogaard: Ex-Aero Afflicted with Concussion-Related Disease

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Derek "Boogeyman" Boogaard, a former Houston Aero enforcer who we got to know before his NHL career took off, has been found to have suffered with a neurodegenerative disease that medical experts have linked to concussions.

Boogaard, once one of the league's most feared brawlers, died on May 13 at age 28 due to an accidental drug and alcohol overdose. Though his brother was charged with Derek's death, a Minnesota judge later dismissed the felony charge levied against Aaron Boogaard, who would plead guilty to a gross misdemeanor.

(The New York Times has been running a massive project on Boogaard's life, death and concussions.)

According to a report co-authored by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and the Sports Legacy Institute, Boogaard's brain exhibited signs of early Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

The condition, which medical professionals say may be connected to dementia, depression and Alzheimer's, can only be diagnosed postmortem. As explored in our nationwide investigation, CTE can start developing in the brains of kids who play youth soccer, water polo and hockey.

Ali Champness, a subject of the Houston Press's "Knocked Out," is proceeding with her months-long recovery from what seemed like a ho-hum blow to the head by a ball during junior varsity soccer practice.

"She responded extremely well to therapy," says mother Kim Champness about her daughter, who attends Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield, California. "Currently, cognitive/reasoning therapy is the only one she has to attend on a bi-monthly basis.

"She has been released to exercise without a heart rate monitor and has been allowed to condition with her soccer team. However, when the balls come out, she has to step away and exercise separately."

About the Boogaard findings, Robert Cantu -- Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy co-director and Sports Legacy Institute co-founder -- says, "It is important not to over-interpret the finding of early CTE in Derek Boogaard.

"However, based on the small sample of enforcers we have studied, it is possible that frequently engaging in fistfights as a hockey player may put one at increased risk for this degenerative brain disease."

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