Café Scientifique examines brutality of contact sports – and its lasting damage

by Contributed Content on October 25, 2014

Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard is both a book and the topic of the next Café Scientifique  on Tuesday, Oct. 28 from 6:00 to 7:30 pm at SRI International in Menlo Park. The event is co-produced by the Bay Area Science Festival.

Widely regarded as the toughest man in the NHL, Derek Boogaard was a gentle man off the ice but a merciless fighter on it. Three panelists will explore Boogaard’s unlikely journey from lumbering kid playing pond-hockey on the prairies of Saskatchewan, so big his skates would routinely break beneath his feet; to his teenaged junior hockey days, when one brutal outburst of violence brought Boogaard to the attention of professional scouts; to his days and nights as a star enforcer with the Minnesota Wild and the storied New York Rangers, capable of delivering career-ending punches and intimidating entire teams.

But behind the scenes, Boogaard’s injuries and concussions were mounting and his mental state was deteriorating, culminating in his early death from an overdose of alcohol and painkillers.

The panelists are John Branch, Pulitizer Prize-winning sports reporter for the New York Times and author of Boy on Ice; Dr. Joel Kramer, Professor of Neuropsychology in Neurology and Director of the Memory and Aging Center Neuropsychology Program, UC San Francisco; Dr. David Camarillo, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University. The moderator is Katie Baker, a staff writer at Grantland.

Boogaard’s story raises deep and disturbing questions about the systemic brutality of contact sports — from peewees to professionals — and the damage that reaches far beyond the game and does so more quickly and at younger ages than has ever been suspected. Discussion will focus on  the current science and technology being used to diagnose and detect these injuries and what that may mean to the future of these sports.

Kepler’s Books will sell copies of Boy on Ice at the event.

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