Primeau to donate his brain to science

May 4, 2009 8:50:19 AM PDT
Retired Philadelphia Flyer Keith Primeau can still be found on the ice, teaching. His days playing with the Flyers were cut short due to multiple concussions. "One time I got laid out at center ice, I was taken off on a stretcher and returned to play two nights later," he said.

Primeau now admits that wasn't a smart decision. Doctors now know one concussion, not fully healed, can make players more vulnerable for another concussion. It can also lead to stroke, or hemmorhage and it can be catestrophic.

"I was at a point when I could have done irreparable damage," Primeau said.

So now Primeau is hoping to raise awareness and help researchers. He'll do yearly medical testing at Boston University's brain bank. And like about 50 other pro-athletes, he's agreed to donate his brain to science after he dies. Doctors are studying the effects of repeated concussions and how it can lead to degenerative brain damage.

"We don't know how many concussions? How severe a concussion? How old the person has to be when they get the concussion. We're not sure of those answers," researcher Dr. Ann McKee said.

"I truly believe there's some real important and vital information that maybe my brain can provide," Primeau said. Now, Primeau said he's doing well but can sense something's not always right.

"I sometimes get some head pressure, fatigue and lethargy, I'd say I'm not overly emotional but my wife would beg to differ," he said.

Still, he's passing on his skills to young players and trying to protect them in the future. He'd like to see stricter rules enforced in hockey to prevent hits to the head (such as what's happened in the National Football League.)

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