Let’s Talk About Head Injuries

It’s something that is not talked about enough. The serious toll that head injuries can take on professional sports players. When I was a kid, we’d cheer when the players smacked other guys into the boards or fought, leaving the other guy injured, because we didn’t know better. We didn’t know how terrible these injuries were in the long run. Now-a-days it’s something that goes by in passing like any other injury, but head injuries are more catastrophic.

In the recent years since the “Enforcer Era” has ended, more information is being learned about what terrible after shocks there are from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and today we’re going to talk about how NHLers are opening up and talking about their experiences with brain injuries and what they’re doing about it.

Former Player Speak Up:

In 2016, more than 100 former NHL players stepped forward and sued the NHL for putting profits above players’ safety. Concussion protocol was atrocious, players often weren’t checked by real doctors, sometimes it was a physical therapist or the team dentist. It wasn’t until 2013 that a player who sustained a concussion during a game was not allowed back into that game. Mike Peluso, one of the players suing the NHL, talked in an interview with Rick Westhead of TSN about how he nearly ended his life because his day-to-day life was sidelined due to the after shocks of his various injuries- seizures, mood swings, forgetting events and names. Westhead also talked with other players and all of their stories are heart shattering to read.

Players like Pat LaFontaine, Scott Stevens, and Matthew Barnaby had been forced to retire due to the after shocks caused by concussions and various head injuries. Brett Lindros, who at one point suffered 2 concussions in an 8 day-span, officially retired due to the “possibility of blindness, as well as permanent brain damage”.

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There are players who have passed away from these injuries, such as Steve Montador (above). Steve Montador was only 35 years old when he passed away in his home in Mississauga, Ontario. Daniel Carcillo and Montador were close friends, Carcillo, a former Blackhawk, talked about how Montador was a positive influence in his recovery from substance abuse. Following Montador’s death, it was discovered that he suffered from CTE, a brain condition that deteriorates that mind and is caused by concussions.

Over this past summer, another pair of former NHLers have opened a lawsuit against the NHL. Daniel Carcillo and Nick Boynton, another former Chicago Blackhawk, are leading this lawsuit against the NHL for the information that was withheld from them regarding the brain injuries they were sustaining. Carcillo and Botnton both suffered from TBI (traumatic brain injuries) and are receiving treatment in Orlando, Flordia. Unlike CTE there are ways to treat TBI.

One thing that brain injuries can cause is depression, along with other mental challenges. Stephen Johns, who I’ll talk more about later, recently expressed how it has been tough for him to be in a positive mood everyday as he heals with post-traumatic headaches. Carcillo and Boynton are activists for mental health awareness, which is a big fleet to take on in a league where you’re expected to be tough. But they’re speaking out and talking about how talking about these things shouldn’t be taboo anymore and how your mental health is just as important to take care of as your body.

Below is a video, that is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Carcillo talks about his experience with TBI and his stance on the NHL:

Current Players:

Sidney Crosby, of the Pittsburgh Penguins, has had a worrying amount of head injuries in his 14 seasons in the NHL, at one point Crosby missed the last 48 games of one season and an additional 20 of the next season due to a concussion. In total between 2010-2012, Crosby missed 108 games for concussions and concussion-like symptoms, he has missed 114 games in total. Typically, your brain stops developing at 25 years old, Sidney Crosby is only 31 years old and has already suffered at least 3 concussions since he was 18.

Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks missed a majority of last season and the beginning of this season due to a concussion sustained during a game in December. For a while, it was unknown what was going on with Crawford, it didn’t come out that he had a concussion until September 14th, when Crawford confirmed it was a concussion during training camp. Crawford made his return on October 18th but there is still worry about any side effects from the concussion.

stephen-johns.jpg

Lastly (even though there is many more and I can go on for days), Stephen Johns of the Dallas Stars. Shortly after the Stars made their return from training camp in Boise, Idaho, Johns was put of the IR and diagnosed with post-traumatic headaches. Personally, as a Stars fan, I worry because about Johns a lot because he’s still a young player (only 26) and there is so much potential left in him. Johns has yet to play a game this season but he did begin practicing with the team on Wednesday, November 7th. Johns had practiced with the team in October but there were still symptoms- a ding off the crossbar made him wince at one point. Wednesday following practice, Johns opened up about hoe dealing with this injury has effected him to Mark Stepneski:

“It’s been more mental. It’s hard to be in a good mood when you have a headache all the time, and that’s taken the biggest toll,”

That’s a lot coming from Johns who is usually a happy go lucky guy when he’s on the ice. On November 7th, Carcillo tweeted an article published about Johns and expressed his hope that John reaches out:

In Closing:

CTE is something that is not brought up enough. There should be protocol in place that protects players, not profit. No Stanley Cup or any other trophy is worth the cost of a human life. Carcillo does talk about how there are ways to combat CTE’s development and how to readjust to daily life following a TBI. Carcillo suggests sending players to actual treatment centers to recover, building centers near where the teams are located. The brain is the single most important structure in the body and it’s essential that it is taken care.

For more information regarding TBI, visit http://www.traumaticbraininjury.com/

You can also follow Daniel Carcillo and Nick Boynton on Twitter to keep up to date with information regarding CTE in the NHL, plus Carcillo is always tweeting some good inspirational quotes.

What do you think about how the NHL handles concussions and head injuries today? Tweet me @ham_sports with your view on the situation.


Information from: (feel free to click on these websites to learn more)

https://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/lives-shattered-by-concussions-former-nhl-players-share-their-stories-1.2774366

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/2018/06/22/boynton-carcillo-sue-nhl-over-head-injuries-brain-damage/36295909/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Boynton

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Montador

https://ottawasun.com/2017/01/20/10-nhl-players-who-had-to-retire-due-to-concussions/wcm/0b70dbed-016a-49aa-bd2c-5f54feb250be

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/related_conditions/chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy-(cte)

http://www.traumaticbraininjury.com/

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