Put the brawling on ice, US hockey league is told

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Even in a sport notorious for its on-ice brawls, Bob Probert stood out. During his 16 years in the US National Hockey League he was involved in more than 200 fights as one of the best known "enforcers" of the rink.

But the fierce pounding took its toll and researchers believe that the repeated brawls gave him brain damage.

The degenerative injury was discovered after Mr Probert's widow donated his brain after his death last year from heart disease, at the age of 45. The finding is likely to add to the clamour in the US for sports to offer better protection to their players after similar damage was found in American football players. Brawling has long been a part of professional ice hockey and there have been no immediate signs that the sport intends to eliminate it.

"In my heart of hearts, I don't believe fighting is what did this to Bob," his widow, Dani, told The New York Times. "It was hockey – all the checking and hits, things like that."