Steve Montador’s family knew something was wrong with the former Sabres defenseman before his death. They learned Tuesday he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disorder commonly known as CTE.
Their next step will be to continue with the lawsuit Montador planned to file against the NHL.
Montador, who died in February at age 35, had his brain examined as part of the Krembil Neuroscience Centre’s Canadian Sports Concussion Project. Doctors at Toronto Western Hospital discovered widespread presence of CTE throughout his brain, likely caused by repeated concussions during his 10-year NHL career.
“The finding of widespread CTE in Steven’s brain helps us all better understand that his brain was ravaged by disease and he was unable to control it,” Montador’s father, Paul, said in a statement. “Through hard work and dedication, Steven achieved his big dream of playing professional hockey in the NHL. He always knew that there might be black eyes, broken bones and soft tissue injuries – but he never anticipated that playing the game he loved would result in such devastating impairment of his brain function. CTE changed everything.”
Montador suffered from depression, erratic behavior and had problems with his memory prior to his death, the cause of which has not been disclosed. He had retained a Chicago law firm to represent him for a suit against the NHL, claiming the league failed to warn players of the long-term risks of concussions.
“Steve Montador’s 35-year-old brain was decaying due to the head hits he endured during his NHL career,” attorney William T. Gibbs said in a statement. “CTE has afflicted yet another young athlete and his family. It is heartbreaking that such a vibrant young man sustained such monumental brain damage while playing a professional sport.”
Gibbs’ firm, Corboy & Demetrio, is part of a pending lawsuit against the NHL on behalf of multiple players in Minnesota. Gibbs told TSN.ca he wasn’t sure whether Montador’s family would join that suit or file independently during the next month.
“First and foremost, our family has forever lost a son, brother, uncle and father,” Paul Montador said. “Many others have lost a great friend.
“My family and I would like to thank Dr. Charles Tator and the entire research team at the Canadian Sports Concussion Project for performing this important work. By identifying CTE in former athletes, they move closer to preventing its prevalence in the future.”