CHIPPEWA FALLS — When brain analysis revealed that former National Hockey League player Jeff Parker had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, it came as no surprise to his family.
For Jeff’s brother, longtime Chippewa Falls High School boys hockey coach Scott Parker, the recent diagnosis by researchers at Boston University’s CTE Center was confirmation of what he already knew in his heart.
Scott had seen his younger brother struggle for years with the after-effects of too many blows to the head — including concussions sustained 15 days apart in his last two games as a pro that ended his NHL career — before Jeff died last September at age 53 from a blood infection.
“I knew it all along — when he was late for his brother John’s wedding, when he went to the wrong place for a TV interview, when he would come to my house and go down in the basement because he needed to be in a dark place,” Scott said.
Still, the formal diagnosis, which came after family members decided to donate Jeff’s brain to the CTE Center in hopes of advancing concussion science and, ultimately, care for former hockey players, was emotional for the Parker family. Researchers determined Jeff had stage 3 CTE, the second-most-severe of four possible stages.
“We’re sad,” said Scott, a teacher in the Owen-Withee school district. “This suggests maybe Jeff was suffering even more than we knew.”
Jeff Parker (contributed photo)