NHL

Walshy’s World: In the Head…

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By Cameron Walsh

Well concussions just won’t go away, the GM’s are now looking at changing the rules again to make the penalties on head shots tougher and tougher. Also to change how the ruling of what a headshot is and where it can come from, it will be interesting to see if it helps or if in fact it makes things worse.

With the news that Sidney Crosby has been given the all clear to start workouts again, and the stop gap fixes the NHL has introduced (quiet room) for suspected concussions, it looks as though concussions will not go away, and not just for the NHL, but for any contact sport.

In the process of writing this we are hit with the sad news that Derek Boogaard passed away from “a mixture of drugs and alcohol”, a usual symptom of depression, which often leads to suicide, even if his death was not classified as such. It has to be noted in the statement the word ‘accidental’ appears a few times, I think trying to avoid the stigma ‘suicide’ leaves.

On top of all of this Nathan Horton gets his ‘bell rung’ in game 3 of the Finals, what a stage for the NHL to have a concussion issue. Thank god for them it was Aaron Rome and not Kevin Bieska or Alex Burrows that did the number on Horton, which would have made the suspension pretty interesting.

There is no way to take concussions out of the game totally, what we need to do is minimize the risk. The brain is something we really don’t understand. Personally, I am an epileptic, and trust me; treatment is far from an exact science.

I was fortunate enough to have two points of contact on this issue in the last few weeks. A great documentary on the ABC called ‘Brain Explosion’, it ran on the Four Corners program. The second  was and still is with a client of mine who unfortunately had a stroke before I met him and was kind enough to explain the effects of the stroke on his brain, and the effects are very similar to how a concussion effects the brain.

Unfortunately the documentary is not available online on the ABC website for more than 14 days and I checked with Frontline on the PBS website and they are not running on it their site either so I have provided this link to allow you to read the brief synopsis of the doc to give you a little bit of a background into what has been found in their research.

(Here is a link to the ABC’s iview webpage the doc may be available to have a watch, Im hoping a few of you get a chance to have a look at it, very enlightening.)

The study in the documentary was trying to work out what concussive impact did to the brain. CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) or progressive deterioration in the brain is caused by concussions but some of this damage can be caused in brains that have not even had a concussion. Just regular bumps and knocks, this is a little bit frightening, especially for me. I played contact sports for 12 years all while dealing with epilepsy. So if we think back to all the fights in hockey, all the times the head hits the glass following regular game contact, hits the ice, and all of those moments where a concussion isn’t recorded, CTE progressive deterioration of the brain is a very real thing in ice hockey.

The sad part of all of this is that the league and many of its teams have been reluctant to admit that concussions are an issue (ed’s note: though having the competition committee working on the epidemic of head shots etc shows that there is more than a little concern – Metz), let alone be concerned about the CTE progressive deterioration issue. The 2010-11 season saw a perceived increase in recorded concussions in the NHL, whether that means we had more, I am not sure, however we did seem to have more impact players effected by concussions. For the sake of these players lives after their playing days there needs to be more research done and head injuries taken more seriously by not only the league but the teams as well.

Where my client’s information became relevant for me in amongst all of this was the fact his doctors could tell him where the damage was in his brain from his stroke. Most of us know that the split of our brain operates the opposite side of the body. The part of his brain that received the damage was the left side that controls his motor skills for both his arm and leg on his right side, the amazing thing is that the doctors could tell him whilst he was still lying in bed where the damage was, and what that damage has done to his body.

The Doctors could locate the damage by dark bruises on his brain, as the bruising dissipated the motor skills improved. However the area that was most ‘damaged/affected’ by the stroke i.e. dark spot of the bruise, still leaves some of the communication to body parts at less than 100%, this is where and why he required rehab.

Equipped with this knowledge and the documentary I hope you got an opportunity to watch, and what happened with Derek Boogaard, is there some way we can test for a connection between depression and concussions. Neurological scientists should do a study on the location of bruises in the brain from concussions and in instances of suicide.

All in all, concussions are never going to totally go away, what we all want to see are less direct shots to the head that cause them.

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About Brian Metzer

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Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Brian Metzer has been covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and National Hockey League since 2004. He is the host of Penguins Live Weekly, a show that airs Saturday mornings on 105.9 the X and iHeart Radio. He serves as the Pittsburgh Penguins correspondent for NHL Network Radio on SiriusXM, and is the NHL and Penguins correspondent for the Beaver County Times. Metzer is also a contributing writer for NHL.com and is the primary contributor for this site www.fromthepoint.com.

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7 Comments

  1. tangent_man

    June 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Nice job Walshy. Unfortunately, the link takes me to the apple homepage. I didn’t find it on youtube either, but there were other Four Corners docs there.

  2. Walshy

    June 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Damn it… Will get on it….

  3. Walshy

    June 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    here is the link to the ABC show guys, Metz if you get a chance whack it in there for me!

    http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/program/769886

    Im a fool….

  4. tangent_man

    June 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    So am I. Did I think to go to abc.com? Noooooooooo….

  5. Walshy

    June 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    plus there is a chance that people outside of australia may not be able to watch it from that site, IP blocking…. you know

  6. tangent_man

    June 15, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Australia only, but only for 4 more days.

    Do you do bootlegs? 😉

  7. Walshy

    June 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I have no idea how to bootleg it, otherwise I would have and got Metz to embed it into the article….