NHL

Walshy’s World: CONCUSSION: It is such an unknown

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(Ed’s note: Walshy wanted to have this piece up last night… unfortunately due to time zone differences and the fact that we are on different ends of the earth, we are just getting it to you today. It is another great piece from our resident health and fitness expert… enjoy it!)

By Cameron Walsh

CONCUSSION, the buzz word of the last 24 hours, especially in Penguins land and anyone who hates or loves to hang it on number 87; Sidney Crosby.

A concussion is: “a traumatic injury to tissues of the body such as the brain as a result of a violent blow, shaking, or spinning.” Official medical definition (http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2813).

There has been a lot of debate, well blame really, laid down on David Steckel for his hit on Crosby in the Winter Classic back on New Year’s day. People have certainly not been happy with the lack of response from the league about the hit. I am not here to say if Steckel’s hit was a head shot or not.

What I am trying to do with this piece is give some understanding of what the symptoms are, what the medical staff would have been looking for, and what Crosby may have been feeling. The brain is a mysterious and difficult part of the body to diagnose, I myself have epilepsy and it took three years before I was fully diagnosed and had it under control to the point where I could say I felt safe to go and get my driver’s license.

I find it very hard to believe that the Penguins medical staff would have put Crosby out on the ice without taking him through their baseline testing for a concussion prior to playing against Tampa on the 5th of Jan. There were four days between the Winter Classic and the Tampa Bay game, time for Crosby to present symptoms of a concussion.

Symptoms the Penguins medical staff would have been looking for and making Crosby aware of would have been headachy feeling, abnormal sleepiness, dizziness, confusion, lack of feeling or emotion, anxiety, blurred vision, vomiting, and the inability to remember events prior to the injury.

If Crosby had not exhibited any of these symptoms then the medical staff of the Penguins would have had no reason to hold him back from the Tampa Bay game. Obviously after the Tampa game Crosby did start to exhibit some of these symptoms.

Luckily this is Crosby’s first concussion.  In cases of repeated concussion such as that found in boxers (or let’s say Jody Shelley), damage to the brain, impaired concentration, slurred speech, slow thinking and the punch drunk syndrome are possible.

In most cases a person will recover from a concussion within a few hours or days. In more severe cases of concussion they last up to several weeks. The person who is experiencing a concussion may have difficulty working, socializing or studying which is known as post concussion syndrome. Although the reasons for this reaction to a concussion is unknown, it is believed by experts that post concussion syndrome may be caused by microscopic injuries to the brain or psychologic factors related to the injury. We all remember Eric Lindros right?

Crosby has been slated to be on the sideline for a week, which is pretty normal for a concussion, once you have ‘failed’ your baseline test you have to ‘clear’ a week before you can test again. If he passes he will be back on the ice.  If not he will have to wait until he passes.

Baseline testing is far from perfect, have a read of this article. Jason Pomminville went through hell trying to work out how to get back on the ice, as did JP Dumont. As you can tell from the article, they had issues but they were far from similar. Baseline testing is the right idea, it’s just not perfect.

The baseline testing is only as good as the people using it and enforcing it. The onus is on the player as much as the medical staff to be honest and upfront about their mental state.  Until neurologists get a better understanding of the brain and refine this testing, this is what the medical staff are going to have to use.

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About Brian Metzer

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Brian Metzer has been covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and National Hockey League since 2004. He currently serves as the Pittsburgh Penguins correspondent for NHL Network Radio on SiriusXM, does similar work for TSN 1050 in Toronto, is a contributing writer for NHL.com, the Beaver County Times and is the primary contributor for this site www.fromthepoint.com.

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3 Comments

  1. Susan

    January 7, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Thanks for the explanation! We will hope he is back soon!

  2. bmetzer

    January 8, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Great read as always Walshy!

    B Metz

  3. Buts

    January 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Great read, I howled at the picture of the skull