Concussions… Yes, concussions are back in the spotlight for the NHL and as many of you fans know, the two do not have a good relationship. The rockiness over the last few years has included many former athletes bringing up lawsuits against the NHL for concussions suffered while playing. They have claimed the NHL has not done enough to either help or prevent concussions from happening.
I for one agree with this. I love the NHL but they have been horrible when it comes to taking proactive steps in concussion awareness. Lately however, they have started to take action against concussions. With more penalties/suspensions for players who take shots to the head of other players and do dirty hits, the NHL is becoming more active in the fight against concussions.
Many don’t realize the significance of a concussion until it’s too late. A concussion is defined in many ways from the most minor being “A blow to the head that results in your brain moving inside your skull and often contacting the skull” to the most dangerous being “a blow to the head that results in brain damage and loss of consciousness”. To me, either definition sounds pretty scary. Your brain can move inside your skull? Um, not too sure I’m comfortable with that idea. The definition of a concussion has changed over time as more and more people become aware of what actually happens with concussions and the advancement of technology has helped greatly with this. This used to be something that was “shaken off” and you continued to play. Thankfully that has changed in this day and age and part of that is coming from the NHL.
The NHL recently announced that it is going to take a more proactive step in not only try to prevent concussions but also keep players from playing if they are believed to have suffered a concussion. That is one of the most dangerous things surrounding a concussion. If you suffer one and are unaware; thus continuing to play, a second hit could mean either serious brain damage that is irreversible or death.
The NHL’s step is having what they call “concussion spotters” at all games, this means that there will be a person designated at each game who’s only job is to watch players and try to detect if they have possibly suffered a concussion after a hit, in which case that person would alert refs and coaches who will stop play to escort the player off for further testing.
In reading an article posted by the NHL (I will include this at the end for those who want to read), this program is not new but how the League handles it is. They will now have their own spotters put in place at games instead of the team designating their own, and there will be two people; one for each team. The rules are a little fuzzy to me, but the teams can still decide if they want to use the League’s spotters or their own but if they choose to use their own, the League spotter will remain at the game to still spot whether a concussion has happened or not.
The League’s spotters are trained by the league and will have radios to communicate with coaches and trainers on the bench about players who have possibly been affected. The medical aspect will still remain with the doctors for the teams but the spotters are trained to see the symptoms of a concussion and thus help warn players/teams if one has occurred. In short; this is a good step in the NHL.
This won’t prevent concussions but it will prevent players from playing with concussions and being unaware or trying to ignore the symptoms. Many people may think this isn’t that big of a deal, but if you take a second and think about all the players in any sport who have dealt with a concussion. I bet nearly 90% of hockey fans alone have heard of either a player on their favorite team or have heard about a big name player dealing with a concussion. Sidney Crosby for example, is one of the best players in the NHL (my opinion, yes but stats don’t lie) and he dealt with a very serious concussion after a dirty hit a few years ago.
Even with all of the news coverage many people still don’t believe concussions are a serious issue. Well, after doing research and seeing how many athletes in general are affected.. CONCUSSIONS ARE ALWAYS SERIOUS! WAKE UP PEOPLE! I’m so sick of people trying to say “oh shake it off” or “nah you’re fine get back out there”. I know games are important but not to the point you risk your life. Yes, concussions are that dangerous! THEY CAN KILL YOU! If you are not proactive about them.
Be aware! Parents, don’t let your kid play if you fear they have a concussion, put your foot down and simply say no, for the sake of their safety. Take them to a doctor before you let them play again, sure it could turn out to be nothing but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry? Concussions can stop people in their tracks and they may never be the same again.
Sure, Sidney Crosby can still score goals but if you watch his games before the concussion and after, there are differences. No offense to him, but he’s not the same player. Same with Justin Morneau (formerly of the Minnesota Twins), Brent Burns (formerly of the Minnesota Wild), Willie Mitchell (Minnesota Wild alum), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Minnesota Wild alum), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)… I could go on and on in hockey alone but I think you get the point. Yes, concussions even happen to big name athletes and can affect them greatly.
Concussions need to stop or at least be dealt with in the right way. I know it sucks to not have your favorite athlete playing for your favorite team but think about their well-being. Would you want to deal with migraine headaches every time you open your eyes, not being able to be in a room with just normal sunlight, be affected by every little sound…? These are just some of the things that happen to players when they get a concussion not to mention the nausea. These are common with the more serious concussions but can happen if a very minor concussion escalates.
Take Derek Boogaard for instance (former Wild/Rangers player) who sadly is no longer with us. Yes, he was addicted to painkillers but do you know why? Yes, he was a fighter but from those fights he received so many concussions he could not deal with the pain. I understand this is a very serious case but it could happen to anyone. No, his death was not a direct result of a concussion but they were part of the cause. Had he not received concussions he would not have needed to rely on painkillers to relieve his pain.
He was a good person who sadly was so hurt by concussions he became addicted to pain killers that eventually led to his death. His concussions were results of fights (I plan to write about fights in another post) but there are more players like him, fighters or not, they are still humans and should not have to go through things like this. He was taken far too soon and it wasn’t fair to the hockey world to lose such a good person who cared so greatly about the fans.
It’s also not fair to expect athletes to risk their lives just for a game. I would much rather watch my team play without that player than hear about that player not having a normal life after retirement. Or even worse, hearing about that athlete suffer from Second Impact Syndrome, which is a condition that happens when you receive a concussion, go back to play and receive a second concussion before the first one has fully healed/or healed at all. This can result in DEATH! Or very serious brain damage. I know minor concussions can be healed with rest and relaxation, and they don’t seem like a big deal but trust me they can become one.
If you don’t believe me, do a little research on your own. All of you have Google on your Smartphones or computers, just Google concussions and go from there. You will see the severity of them and maybe change your perspective. I’m not trying to deter people from sports… not that at all! Play to your heart’s content but just be careful and if you believe you have suffered a concussion, please tell someone and get help. It’s a brain injury after all and that needs to be taken seriously! Brain injuries can cause more than just physical pain, they can mess with emotions too and cause depression, so things like this need to be taken very serious!
As I said before, don’t be afraid to get help if you believe you have suffered a concussion! Your brain is not a game, if you play games with your brain you will most likely lose and how can you play your favorite sport if you are no longer around? Just be careful and be aware, it’s okay to take a break from a sport to let a concussion heal, your favorite pro athlete would agree! Thanks for reading!
http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=779135#&navid=nhl-search (here’s the link)