Gagandeep Khosa, who is currently a student-at-law at our firm, had the honour of being asked by the Faculty of Law at Thompson Rivers University to present a paper that he had written on the ‘culture of risk’ in professional sports. Gagandeep spoke at the a conference, “In the Spotlight: Sports, Media and Entertainment Law” which was held in Kamloops, British Columbia on January27 through 30th, 2017.
During his presentation, Gagandeep discussed how concussions have become one of the more frequent injuries in sports and how they represent a significant health problem to athletes. His research found that though several sporting organizations have changed rules to better protect athletes, a ‘culture of risk’ remains in North-American based professional sports that promotes and encourages athletes to use their bodies as weapons. Furthermore, recent advancements in concussion and CTE research indicate a discouraging correlation between athletes having chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and suicidal ideations. To illustrate, he presented a case study on three former National Hockey League (NHL) Players - Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. Their careers were cut short because of concussions, and unfortunately all three committed suicide between May 13th 2011 and August 31st 2011.
Gagandeep also discussed class action law suits that have been filed against the NHL and the CFL. The class actions submit evidence that the leagues intentionally withheld evidence of debilitating concussion effects from the players. For instance, the lawsuit against the NHL includes a striking allegation that “the NHL hid or minimized concussion risks from its players, thereby putting them at a substantially higher risk for developing memory loss, depression, cognitive difficulties, and even brain related diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease”.
In his closing remarks, Gagandeep provided his personal opinion on the ‘culture of risk’ in sports, which is that given the speed and physical nature of the NHL & NFL, eliminating brain injuries will not be possible without eliminating entire facets of the sports.