The Pain In Pro Sports

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 5 2012 @ 11:22am


After the NYT's expose on hockey player Derek Boogaard's fatal painkiller overdose, Ellen Etchingham fumes:

Professional sports are a world of pain. We seldom consider this, although we are well aware of the frequency and severity of injuries. But though we see people getting hurt all the time, we don’t see very much suffering. Players are always presented to us placidly lying down for stitches, joking with media about their knee rehab program, smiling through broken teeth. They don’t look like they’ve been hurt. They don’t look like people who’ve suffered something. They seem fine. So we wince and laugh and praise their toughness, and go on with our lives figuring that they’re somehow just a more badass class of person than ourselves.

She thinks addiction poses a bigger problem than concussions: 

In our alarm over CTE and brain trauma, we focus entirely on causes, but what if we’re wrong about the causes? What if the problem isn’t really concussions at all? What if concussions, in the end, only account for a small fraction of hockey-related psychological problems? What if we reduce concussions and pat ourselves on the back for doing something while dozens of players are still suffering the exact same problems Boogaard had due to chronic pain, closeted mental illness, and dysfunctional treatments for both? We believe that the League must reduce head hits, and it must, but even with a dramatic decline in concussions, hockey will still cause pain and it will still cause addiction.

(Photo: Derek Boogaard #94 of the New York Rangers fights with Trevor Gillies #14 of the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on December 2, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. By Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)