Calgary Flames star Jonathan Huberdeau has pledged to donate to his brain to Project Enlist Canada for research on brain injuries, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Project Enlist Canada is a program created by the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada that focuses on military veterans and helps researchers better understand CTE, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Huberdeau, 29, is the most prominent current NHL player to publicly pledge his brain to concussion research. The 10-year NHL veteran, who was traded from the Florida Panthers to the Flames in a July blockbuster, led the league in assists last season and finished fifth in the MVP voting.
Agent Allan Walsh, who works closely with the Concussion Legacy Foundation, told ESPN that the organization was “looking for the right player to partner with in Canada and be willing to take the step to donating their brain to research.”
Walsh said Huberdeau was compelled by the involvement of former astronaut Marc Garneau, who became the first Canadian to travel to outer space in 1984. Garneau, former Harvard hockey captain Kalley Armstrong and over 170 Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans have also pledged to donate their brains to Project Enlist.
“As an NHL player, I’m very aware of the impact of traumatic brain injuries, concussions and the link to other mental health issues,” Huberdeau said in a statement. “I’m proud to support Canadian military Veterans by pledging to donate my brain to Project Enlist and support research to improve the quality of life of all military personnel who so bravely and courageously served our country.”
Walsh said that in talks with Huberdeau and the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada, there was hope that his decision could encourage other prominent NHL players to make the same pledge.
“It was discussed as being one of the options that could happen down the road,” Walsh said. “There are a lot of people that are struggling. A lot of military veterans that are experiencing the same things as professional athletes. You have all these studies now that show the link between repetitive head impacts and CTE.”
Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada was launched in 2012 as an offshoot of the Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation.