On Monday night, the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup championship on home ice in 77 years. Unlike other Hawks fans and hockey enthusiasts, NHL veteran Stan Mikita is not participating in the celebration. In fact, he is completely unaware of his team’s most recent victory and the 22 years he spent playing for Chicago as number 21.
“His mind is completely gone,” Jill Mikita, Stan’s wife, told the Chicago Tribune earlier this week.
Mikita’s memory and cognition had been slowly waning for years, but began to rapidly deteriorate last September. Only a few months later, his diagnosis of suspected Lewy body dementia (LBD) was made public. The 75-year-old has been residing at an assisted living facility outside of Chicago since January, where his family and friends visit him often.
A number of former NHL players have recently filed lawsuits against the league claiming they were not warned of the health risks associated with repeated concussions sustained during gameplay. Repeated head trauma can result in a progressive neurodegenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Like many other brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia, CTE can only be definitively diagnosed postmortem.
Regardless of whether Mikita is eventually diagnosed with CTE, his family says they have no intentions of suing the NHL. Fortunately, Mikita’s decline will not be in vain. His fame has helped raise awareness of Lewy body dementia, and, once he passes, his family plans to abide by his wish to have his brain donated for research.
This form of dementia severely disrupts thinking, movement, sleep, and behavior. In some cases, hallucinations and symptoms of Parkinson’s may also accompany LBD. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA), an estimated 1.4 million Americans are affected by this disease. Although LBD is fairly widespread, little is known about it, and people are often misdiagnosed until they reach the more severe later stages.
For more information on Lewy Body Dementia, see: