It’s no secret that the hot topic in hockey is concussions. Almost every team in the NHL has faced the consequences of concussions this season. Between Brendan Shanahan serving out suspensions like he’s passing around slices of birthday cake and the occupation of quiet rooms around the league, concussions are impossible to avoid. I hand it to the league for trying to discourage the hits that cause head injuries and the steps they take when these hits do happen.
The ladies of “What Up Ya Sieve?” had a great post about what is actually done during the head injury process. After seeing Claude Giroux take a knee to the head by his teammate Wayne Simmonds in the first episode of 24/7, many of us had questions. This will hopefully clear some of that up for you. I will not even try to say it better than they did so READ IT.
When a player takes an impact in the way that Giroux did and tries to act unaffected but clearly appears disoriented, there’s no question that he’s getting sent down the tunnel.
But what if the impact ISN’T crystal clear?
Last night in a game against the New York Islanders, Max Talbot took an elbow to the face by Steve Staios. Those of us watching went “Huh? That wasn’t called?!” Talbot was on all fours for a long time (11 seconds before play was blown dead) and clearly appeared shaken. Due to refereeing which will not receive an opinion in this post, the hit was unseen. Staios received no penalty and returned to his bench. Talbot returned to his, clearly upset by the lack of action being taken. Talbot, however, DID stay on his bench and minutes later had an assist on a goal by Sean Couturier.
Video of the hit: http://youtu.be/1AsWQI-LaOo
In the minutes following the hit, Talbot clearly had the wherewithal to continue play, but his postgame interview says otherwise. He appears tired (as expected), disoriented, slow with responses, and somewhat unfocused. It may have been fatigue for a hard-earned win or it may be the start of an injury that has sidelined almost 1/4 of his teammates at some point this season. Some may argue he should never have been let back out onto the ice but Talbot would probably argue that no one, officials included, felt the hit was deemed detrimental enough to end his night. You can form your own opinion here: http://youtu.be/r3M8S119ePk.
Some players know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em while others will up the ante until they go all in, either winning big or going off into the sunset with empty pockets. Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich has been quoted as saying,
I just don’t want people to automatically assume because a player takes a hard hit that it’s a concussion. Hard hits happen. You look at the other night, Brent Seabrook was knocked out and he played the next night in Pittsburgh and I watched him play [Wednesday] night against Montreal. I don’t want everybody to just say every hard hit is a concussion because taking hits and receiving hits is part of the game, and I don’t want players to miss action because there’s so many red flags being thrown up in the air. (via The Washington Times)
As professional athletes, no one knows a player’s individual limits like the player himself. All men (be he 18 or older) who enter the NHL are fully aware of the chances they take when they strap on their skates and, as comforting as it is to know their league has their best interest at hand, they’re in this league to play and play they will.
As you should have read above (shame, shame if you didn’t click the link!) a portion of the ImPACT test is left to the player’s discretion and he can choose to be as candid or withdrawn as he chooses when discussing his symptoms. No matter how careful or concerned an organization may be, at the end of the day, the player himself (in the case of the NHL) will go back out onto the ice when he feels he is ready. Those of us not in their skates must sit by and watch as they make the decisions that impact the game and ultimately their lives. By continuing research and keeping a close eye on the players, the NHL continues to work toward maintain the quality of players, on and off the ice.