When Peter Muller got a concussion at the beginning of the season, I'll be honest, I didn't think too much about it. Here was a young guy who had gotten a serious concussion the previous season, plays a few games and it gets re-injured. The more I'm learning about concussions the more I am finding out that once you've had one, it's more likely that you'll suffer another one. Then Adam Foote got one. Okay, that sucked, I like Foote, I have since the Nords days. Then, fan favorite, Ian Laperierre admitted to having head issues, from taking a puck to the face... a second time. What I found truly disturbing about his case is that this happened last season. He missed about a month, then played in the playoffs. Then, this year, he informs the team that he's having issues. Then, this week, Kyle Cumiskey was also diagnosed with a concussion. This leads me to pouring over research, papers, and information for hours to find out more about concussions in sport and what is happening. I thought some of you may be interested so I'm going to share some of my findings. Now, although I'm not known to be as verbose as Dario, I can be sometimes as well, so if you want a short read, this is probably not the article for you. There will be many links peppered in this as well, if you'd like to read more about it.
The first article I read was on CTV- Edmonton site. It discussed a recently released study that followed Junior players, and what it found was scary.
The hockey study followed 67 junior hockey players, aged 16 to 21, over the entire 2009-10 season and tracked the number and severity of their concussions, as well as how quickly they returned to play.
In the more than 50 games the doctors participating in the study observed, 21 players suffered concussions, five of them repeat concussions.
That was 3.3 times higher than in previous studies of concussions in hockey and led Dr. Paul Echlin to suggest that concussions are "occurring at epidemic proportions."
"Those are conservative numbers because of those not coming forward or those undiagnosed," he added.
And this is the really scary stat:
According to the Centers for Disease Control, sports-related concussions occur in the United States three million times per year, and among people ages 15 to 24 are now second only to motor vehicle accidents as a leading cause of traumatic brain injury.
There was a Mayo Clinic recently that discussed concussions as well:
One of the things analyzed was the "when" that a player got hit that lead to a concussion.
Comper and Hutchinson studied video of the 260 reported concussions sustained in the N.H.L. between October 2006 and January 2010 (that’s an average of about 75 per season, a figure confirmed by Dr. Ruben J. Echemendia, the N.H.L.’s chief neuropsychologist). Comper described some of their findings: About 44 percent of the players who sustained reported concussions were hit after having just released the puck (defined as having passed it within 0.3 seconds before the hit). Some 31 percent of concussed players did not have the puck at all when they were hit. Just 25 percent of concussed N.H.L.’ers had the puck when they were hit. The upshot: almost 75 percent of N.H.L. players who sustained a concussion were not expecting the hit because they did not have the puck.
And they also looked at the "what" that the player was being hit by:
Comper said that of the concussions he and Hutchinson analyzed, the initial contact in 60 percent of them came from the shoulder; 16 percent from the elbow; 13 percent from the gloves; and 10 percent from other parts of the body. For the great majority of each of those, the blows were targeted to the head.
Another Canadian website released some information recently about concussions in hockey, CBC , in particular they talked about a young 19 year old who got concussed while playing in net. This brought up a scary point, if you are letting the players chose when they'll be back, they won't necessarily make the right choices. Especially young guys.
"Coaches, trainers asked me if I'm OK…well of course I'm OK — I want to play, right?" he said. "That's one issue trainers [and] coaches need to know so they can say, 'You're not going to play.' Yeah it's been tough…no one really sees the dark side of it."
He didn’t feel good over the summer or at training camp, and skating a few strides Saturday at Staples Center, his first venture onto the ice in six weeks, left him uncomfortable.
"The lights and everything irritated me quite a bit and when you’re out there, that’s all it is. Light and movement. That’s why I can’t deal with it," he said. "Regular stuff, I’m fine with my kids at home.
"One of my biggest fears is not if, it’s when I’m going to get hit again. The way I play it’s a matter of time. Punches or hits or anything. I’ve got to be smart about that.
"Last year was different. I got caught in the moment. I lied to be part of the Stanley Cup run. I was lucky enough not to get hit again."
I was glad to read that he wasn't affected when he was at home with his kids, but disturbed that he was playing that injured. He really was lucky that he didn't get hit, a clean but hard hit, during that time.
What I keep reading over and over again is the lack of education on concussions. From the doctors, coaches, althetes, fans and parents. One of the more somber reads I had was Kevin Kaminski's story. It was a terrifying read, and one that I think players need to be made aware of. I think they need to get the players, coaches and GM's in a room and listen to his wife speak about their experiences for one hour, then guys like Lappy, probably wouldn't be quite so quick to play while injured. For those of you who don't know, Kevin Kaminski is a former NHL'er who, even with his lacking size, played the role of Enforcer.It was hardly his first concussion and so they didn't think anything of it, but it got worse.
The symptoms were long-lasting: insomnia, irritability, vertigo, sensitivity to light. He couldn't exercise because of headaches as soon as he got his heart rate up. His memory shot, he couldn't find his car after shopping for groceries. He'd forget his PIN number at the bank machine – it was his jersey number.
But then things became *real* bad. And I don't mean, oh he won't play hockey again bad, I mean... he's going to do serious damage bad... Megan, his wife, discussed it.
Megan Kaminski had stopped asking her husband to help with the kids. He'd always been a great partner and incredibly devoted to his little girls, but now he couldn't stand to be around them.
"He'd be mad, he would swear," she said. "It was like living with a complete stranger. He was totally a different person. I couldn't talk to him or rationalize with him. The girls didn't understand anything that was going on with him. It was, `Where's Daddy?'"
But one night she had a deadline to meet for some writing and asked Kevin to get the girls out of the bath and into their pyjamas. She soon found Lexi crying at her office door.
"She said, `Daddy's really mad and he's scaring me.' I was bending down in front of her and the bedroom door opened from our master bedroom and he came flying down the hallway and he picked her up by one hand and he cocked his fist back."
Somehow Megan got her daughter out of harm's way and push the feared enforcer into the walk-in closet in their bedroom.
Now, they did sit down some guys and have Megan tell this story... but not nearly enough of them. The reaction they got was not a pretty sight:
Kevin was approached by many of the players he once battled against.
"They were pulling Kevin aside and saying, `Can I give you a call some time? Sometimes when I fight, I black out in the middle of it,'" said Megan Kaminski. "One guy said that over the past couple of years, he's had this straight black line that goes across the middle of his eyes. Unbelievable stuff.
"These guys all know that they're replaceable and I know that scares the hell out of them. They want to do whatever it takes. They'll lie. They just don't care. They just want to get back out there and not lose their spot. I understand. This is all these guys know.
"But until you've lived with it and you see it's just an absolute nightmare, you just can't understand how bad it can be to just ignore those symptoms."
For one day anyway, the players in that room got the message.
"That room of big strong men broke down," said Megan Kaminski.
"It was like, 'Holy s--t, that could happen to me.'"
There are quite a number of quotes that paint Collin Campbell in an unfortunate light in that article, when it comes to hits to the head and concussions. I've decided not to write them out, because the article is three years old, and I hope by now his mind has changed and he's realized the error of his ways, but feel free to read it.
Here is a list of 30 players who had their careers cut short due to concussions. Some of the more notable ones are:
- Eric Lindros
- Steve Moore
- Keith Primeau
- Adam Deadmarsh
- Kevin Kaminski
Speaking of Eric Lindros , yeah I'm still bitter, they interviewed him, and what one of the things he said.. well, to be honest they reminded me of what we said about Ryan Wilson after he came back from a concussion:
"It’s not necessarily the voices in your head saying slow down or be careful or maybe play a different style. It’s the hand-eye coordination. It’s the things that you never had to think about before that now you have to practice. Never had to think about before.
So maybe Wilson wasn't playing timid because he wanted to, maybe it's just that he actually *couldn't*.
Here's another player statement, Nick Kypreos, this time on the Hockey Canada website
You give your lumps, you take your lumps.' Nick Kypreos didn't count on the career-ending concussion he suffered in a fight during an exhibition game against the New York Rangers. 'I lost my helmet and hit my head on the ice. It's like a dream you can't remember. Within one hour everything started to come back into focus. I was being asked how I was feeling and if I could go back on the ice to finish the game.'
Players should not be asked that question. 'They're too emotional to answer. You just want everyone to forget it ever happened...to keep playing hockey. Since I was seven-years-old, I've been told to 'shake it off', 'dust off the cobwebs', 'suck it up' and you'll be fine.' Unfortunately he found out that that is not always true. 'The days of sniffing smelling salts are over', he said. 'You can see a knee or a shoulder injury but you can't see a head injury, so there is always the question of 'how hurt is he?'.
Marc Savard has also been battling depression along with his concussion:
At that time he admitted he was also suffering from depression, and when asked Tuesday morning how he's been dealing with that, Savard said he's being helped professionally and wants to keep it personal.
"Obviously, that's the toughest thing to talk about, so I'll keep that to myself," he said. "I'm obviously still having some issues with that, but being around the guys, and getting the doctor's help that I'm getting, things are going up. I still have my down days, that's for sure, but I'm getting by."
You know that 19 year old goalie I mentioned? well, he came up again, this time more in depth and they brought up a good point:
"On Hockey Night in Canada, they did a thing on Taylor Hall getting rammed into the boards, finishing the game and scoring that goal in Brandon and then they bring the GM of the Oilers on and he says ‘That’s when we knew he was a great hockey player,’" said Madigan.
"No. You’re encouraging that stigma (you’re not tough enough if you don’t play hurt). That’s why I finished my game. Who knows what might have happened if I didn’t."]
This all brings me to the Cascade M11. The helmet that claims to reduce concussions.
"I tried it and I loved it. From everything I hear, they’re great for concussions, and its nice because they tighten around your head, so it’s a good, solid fit, real comfortable. I’ve been in three fights so far and it hasn’t come off yet. Sometimes I like to get the hair out there, but I guess I’ll take the punches off my helmet as opposed to off my head. You don’t really notice it, minute to minute, but you do feel that it tightens the whole head, as opposed to front to back. So definitely it feels real snug and it feels good. You don’t really notice it, and that’s the idea."
One last link Jeromy Roenick ,who says he suffered around 13 concussions in his career.
He remembered one hit that wiped out his memory of the incident completely, causing a serious concussion. He played the next night and had a hat trick.
"We get on the ice, we're on the ice and we know what we're getting into," he said. "We know our life can change from one game to the next."
The warrior mentality that drives an athlete to be the best at his sport can also get in the way of staying healthy.
The truth is, some players need to be protected from themselves.
"No matter what the rules are -- if you respect the game and you respect the players you play against, you play hard but you play fair," Calgary Flames forward Olli Jokinen told Sporting News. "It doesn't really matter what kind of rules they make or what kind of changes they make, if there's no respect among the players, you're still going to see headshots."
Now, this brings me to my last thoughts and points, for now anyway, is that unfortunately this is going to have to start with the players. Yes, I read that people are blaming a lack of respect among the guys as a reason for the bad hits. But I think that the guys are now a) a lot bigger and b) a lot faster than they used to be. Not only that, but people are more aware of not only concussions but the effects and how to handle it now.
The players need to do a few things for themselves. They need to use their mouth guards as protection, not chew toys (you aren't a labrador, Hunny) , the thing that seems to set the M11 helmet apart from all the other helmets out there is the fit. It's tight and fitted all around the players head. Well, if that makes a significant difference, then the players should, at the very least, ensure that their helmets are on properly and secure. I mean, they run ads every year aimed at children for their bike helmets, using scaring tactics... what's scarier than being so hurt you almost strike your own child?
There is good: there isn't the stigmata around concussions that used to exist. The fact that the Avs make their players sit so long after having experienced a concussion, while frustrating for the fans (and the players), it's really in the best interest of the guys. Hockey is a business after all, they can't have their best product discarded in the clearance bin. The coaching staff, team doctors, and players are starting to take it more seriously, that's the reason more guys are sitting in the press box, eating popcorn.
Since people seem to want to compare hockey to ten years ago, they want to say there is now a lack of respect... but maybe, just maybe, it's the opposite. Maybe now the teams actually respect the players more, forcing them to sit while injured. Taking part in the Mayo clinic, while the NHL didn't pay for it, they gave them access to all game footage... these may seem like small steps but at least they are steps.