The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/28/11 at 06:26 PM ET
As the media’s continued to insist that the NHL is experiencing a concussion epidemic of unprecedented proportions, I’ve kept thinking a simple thought: “Yeah, but wasn’t anyone paying attention from the late 90’s till around 2008 or 2009, when somewhere between 7-15 players would very quietly retire due to post-concussion issues, and we simply didn’t talk about it as if concussions were a ‘problem?’” Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos believes that, to some extent, advances in sports medicine and a more progressive and preventative slate of concussion-diagnosing procedures are simply revealing that, obstruction or no obstruction, red line or no red line, NHL players have simply been suffering many more concussions than we’ve ever assumed they were over the past ten to fifteen years, and that it’s entirely possible that the short-term fears we have for an All-Star team’s worth of concussed players sitting on the sidelines might translate into longer careers for the Crosbys, Webers and Gagnes over the world:
s it an epidemic or is it just the knowledge and education getting the best of us. Don’t think for a minute I’m undervaluing the importance of identifying head injuries, but you can’t deny that just a short while ago we rarely saw this many players diagnosed with concussions or “concussion-like” symptoms. ]
Why? Because back then, as players, we didn’t know any better. We didn’t have the concussion education today’s players have, so we played through the symptoms. The last thing in the world we wanted was a teammate, coach or general manager looking at us thinking we were soft. Just as many players likely had concussions, they were just never properly identified.
Today is much different. Now GMs are more sensitive to concussions than ever before and teams are more willing to shut a guy down for seven to 10 days just to be on the safe side.I think if the grade of concussion were made public, we’d see many of these guys out with Grade 1 concussions. I am not saying these aren’t legitimate concussions, but I am saying there is a difference between these five-, six- and seven-day concussions and the more serious ones suffered by Sidney Crosby, Marc Staal and Chris Pronger.
Earlier this year we saw Brent Seabrook leave a game after Rene Bourque hit him into the glass, but he managed to play the next game. NHL leading scorer Claude Giroux missed only six days and thankfully picked up where he left off with a four-point night against Dallas. Marcus Kruger missed only one game after Deryk Engelland rocked his world. The early indications out of Nashville are Weber, who has already missed one game, is expected to be back before the end of the week.
Many of these concussions have led people to believe we have a huge epidemic on our hands, when in reality many are precautionary diagnosis more than anything else. Trust me when I say this from personal experience, a significant concussion is longer than a day-to-day injury. I know doctors will say every concussion is “significant”, but let’s face it, there are times when a pro has to play at less than 100 per cent, be it a knee, a shoulder, or, dare I say it, a head.
It’s great that we have evolved in this concussion world to know it’s now better to have players shut down for a week rather than having them play through minor symptoms and putting themselves in jeopardy of getting hit again and again only to miss a few months with a Grade 3 or 4 concussion.
A concussion is a concussion is a concussion, regardless of the “grade” thereof, but the NHL’s new course of preventative medicine isn’t a bad thing—it’s the right thing to do when placing players’ long-term health ahead of the old, “If you’re not dead, get back out there” mentality.
I do believe that we are, to a large extent, finding out that players are in fact pretty regularly concussed in some minor form, and while we have yet to figure out a way to prevent them—and neither putting the red line back in nor getting rid of the obstruction crackdown will eliminate them—we’re at least headed toward a point where, five or ten years from now, medical science, better equipment and better understandings of how to treat concussions will yield less time on the IR and more effective recoveries for players who suffer the brain-jiggling bumps and checks from both teammates and opponents which result in brain trauma.
Are we dealing with some scary sh*t and some very hard questions regarding how the league and players need to possibly reign in their physicality to reduce the incidences of concussions? Yep, but it’s much less scary than watching the Lafontaines, Beukebooms, McCauleys, Primeaus, Lindroses, Richters, and even the Kypreoses simply fade away.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.