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Neurologist calls for ban on fighting


People will say Dr. Rajendra Kale doesn’t get it. That he hasn’t been watching hockey long enough to fully understand the nuances of the game. Fighting, they’ll say, actually makes hockey safer.

But that argument didn’t dissuade Kale, a neurologist from India currently living in Ottawa, from penning a scathing editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal calling for a ban on fighting.

Writes Kales, “As a relative newcomer to Canada and a new spectator to hockey, I was fascinated by the skill, grace, speed and physical fitness needed to play the game. Simultaneously, I was appalled by the disgraceful and uncivilized practice of fighting and causing intentional head trauma. The tragic story of Sidney Crosby’s layoff due to concussions has not been sufficient for society to hang its head in shame and stop violent play immediately.”

Kale believes that the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of deceased players Rick Martin, Reggie Fleming, Bob Probert and Derek Boogaard “should be enough to sway minds to impose a ban on all forms of intentional head trauma, including fighting, along with severe deterrent penalties such as lengthy suspensions for breaches.”

But what about the contention that fighting deters even more violent play? NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has called fighting a “thermostat,” suggesting a scrap can decrease the temperature of a game before things get seriously out of hand. Remember, hockey players carry sticks. If a player really wanted to hurt someone, he could.

“It is an argument, but I think it is an extremely weak argument,” Kale told the Canadian Press. “If you ban the fighting and the intentional head-hitting, you do not know what’s going to happen.”

And he’s right about that – we don’t know what would happen. So we’ll continue to debate it.