The family of former professional hockey player Derek Boogaard, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2011, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the National Hockey League (NHL).
The suit, filed just days before a two-year statute of limitations expired, claims that the league drafted Boogaard because of his reputation as a fighter, only to pump him full of prescription pain medication when he suffered injuries.
“Fighting night after night took its expected toll on Derek’s body and mind,” the family’s attorney, William Gibbs, said in a statement reported by NPR. “To deal with the pain, he turned to the team doctors, who dispensed pain pills like candy. Then, once he became addicted to these narcotics, the NHL promised his family that it would take care of him. It failed. He died.”
Boogaard was known as an enforcer, and was reportedly involved in 174 fights over the course of his professional sports career—61 of those in NHL regular season games. He also suffered substance abuse problems, and had twice participated in the NHL’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.
His family alleges that Minnesota Wild team doctors gave Boogaard prescriptions for 1,201 painkillers during the 2008-09 season, and that New York Rangers medical staff provided the player with prescriptions for an additional 366 pills during the 2010-11 season. Boogaard died from a lethal mixture of alcohol and oxycodone one day after ending his second rehab stint.
A postmortem study of Boogaard’s brain revealed early indications of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to repeated hits to the head. Several months before his death, Boogaard suffered a season-ending concussion, which his family claims was just one of many.
A judge recently dismissed a lawsuit that the Boogaard family filed against the NHL Players’ Association last September.
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