Former standout Avalanche winger posthumously diagnosed with CTE

Nov 4, 2022, 12:35 PM
Marek Svatos...
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Former Colorado Avalanche player Marek Svatoš had a really strong NHL career. He scored 100 goals across eight seasons, debuting in Denver on the famed 2003-04 team. Svatoš spent six seasons in Colorado and was on the Slovakian national team for the 2006 Olympics in Torino.

The once exciting young player, who received Calder votes, losing the Rookie of the Year award to Alex Ovechkin, died at just 34 years old on Nov. 4, 2016, in his Lone Tree home. A coroner stated Svatoš had codeine, morphine and anti-anxiety medication in his system when he died, The Denver Post reported. According to his wife, Diana, his official cause of death was an accidental overdose.

Diana is now speaking out in hopes of helping other NHL families, sharing to TSN that Svatoš had the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at the time of his death.

“I wanted to get my kids to a good place before talking about this, but I want people to know that Marek was a good person who loved his family and made decisions because of CTE, not because he was a bad person,” Diana said. “I don’t know how many times I heard him say ‘the lights went out’ after he had had a concussion. I heard it enough times to remember that phrase.”

“I’m not talking about forgetting to take out the garbage,” she said. “I’m talking about having a conversation with him and him coming back five seconds later saying, ‘What were we talking about?’ That would happen three times in a row. It was to the extreme.

“He didn’t choose to do this to himself or to his family and people need to know that. They need to know his full story,” Diana said. “One of the main reasons I want to tell this story now is I want to help other NHL families.

“I’m saying this from a place of love, but the league can do more for players during and after their careers. When guys go to rehab, the league can follow up with them and with their wives to see how things are going. And they can still try to do a better job helping players be prepared for what happens after their hockey careers. These guys train their whole life to be a pro hockey player, then it’s over, and then they and their families start to have problems. Being honest about how big a problem this is would be a good first step by the NHL.”

Diana says her husband suffered at least a handful of diagnosed concussions. She donated her husband’s brain to researchers at Boston University, where a three-page pathology report was put together, showing Marek had Stage 2 CTE. (There are four stages.)

Stage two is a mild form of CTE, with symptoms being mood and behavioral changes.

TSN reports Svatoš had memory issues at just 25 years old.

Not a big player by any means at 5-10, Svatoš was more of an offensive-focused player.

Diana says her husband became easily agitated and forgetful. She says he became addicted to Oxycodone, which was given to him by both team and independent doctors. Eventually, he tried heroin, attempted suicide, and went to rehab three times.

Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously. CTE is linked to repeated blows to the head.

TSN reports that of the 14 former NHL players whose brains have been studied by researchers, 13 have been found to have had CTE. That includes Ralph Backstrom, Stan Mikita, Steve Montador and Bob Probert,

The NHL has not said anything about injuries suffered playing hockey and life-long brain issues; they reached a nearly $20 million settlement with over 300 players who sued, accusing the league of downplaying the long-term dangers of repeated brain trauma.


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