by PuckStopsHere on 09/21/08 at 07:14 AM ET
When I earlier wrote about the Philadelphia Flyers decision to create salary cap room by placing Derian Hatcher on the long term injury exemption list, it touched on the problem that many injuries are hard to properly quantify. Most longterm NHL players suffer from a chronic or degenerative condition of some sort that could be considered an injury if it is convenient to do so and could be played through if that is considered convenient. In the case of Hatcher, he has a bad right knee, which he originally hurt in 2003. He has been able to play (although not as well as he did before the injury) with the pain. He has had to have his knee repeatedly drained between games, but he has been able to play. Now that his salary cap hit is seen as a liability by the Flyers, his knee condition is a long term injury that has most likely ended his career.
There is another case, where the player is attempting to benefit from the unclear grey area that falls between definitely injured and definitely healthy. That is the case of David Tanabe of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The David Tanabe case will be discussed in more detail by Red and Black Hockey in more detail than I will discuss it, but I wanted to look at it because it lends an interesting perspective to the problems when potentially disputable injury status exists. Tanabe has not played a hockey game since December 18th, 2007 when he suffered a concussion. The Hurricanes attempted to buyout his contract this summer. This buyout was challenged by the NHLPA because Tanabe was considered still injured due to his concussion. Now that training camp has rolled around, his contract has not been bought out. Therefore, Tanabe is expected to attend camp. If he is still suffering from the after-effects of a concussion, he would present himself to the Hurricanes medical staff and probably be listed as a long term injury exemption. The problem is Tanabe has not come to training camp. Thus, his status is unclear.
Likely a concussion is one of those medical conditions where a doctor could not disprove its existence. If Tanabe maintains he is suffering from confusion, dizziness, headache, ringing in the ears or other common concussion symptoms how is a doctor able to say he isn’t? For the most part, Tanabe can remain injured if he wants to remain injured. In his case, he will be higher paid to remain injured, as his contract will not be bought out. Of course, he still has to fulfill contractual obligations of attending training camp, which he hasn’t done.
There are a lot of players who fall into the grey area where they have chronic pain and degenerative conditions that they can play through if they want to play, but also could use as an excuse to considered injured if they want to be injured. The decision to be injured or not is made for other reasons, often financial ones. This is a reality that probably must be accepted. Players in the grey area between injured and healthy will be classified in whichever of the two camps best suits the purposes of the people doing the classification. Since a lot of players fall into this grey area at all times, there will be disputes and suspicious classifications.
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