Hockey and Traumatic Brain InjuriesShareThis
I was really tempted to make the title “Hockey and Traumatic Brian Injuries” to act like I’ve had a few myself, but figured it’d be a tough joke to get since you probably don’t check my spelling all that closely. Anyways, let’s get on with it!
My oft-mentioned brother is an ambassador for the Rick Hansen foundation (Rick Hansen is the Canadian dude with Spina Bifida that WHEELED AROUND THE WORLD), which provides funding for research on Spina Bifida and other spinal cord injuries.
And, my oft-mentioned fiancee is an Occupational Therapist at St. Joseph’s Barrow Neurological Institute, a world renowned treatment facility that people from all over the country fly into when they need the best care (the one Bret Michaels was just at). She works in the acute brain injury rehab unit, dealing with people who’ve had traumatic brain injuries (henceforth, TBI’s).
So, when I had someone reach out to me about raising awareness of brain injuries in hockey (Mark Savard, David Booth, whatever happened to Daniel Carcillo at some point in his life), I figured my site was a perfect fit. Chelsea Travers of CareMeridian asked if she could run a piece she wrote on Bourne’s Blog, and we’re happy to have her contribution on the site. The more we talk about it, the more we’ll do about it, I figure.
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Chelsea Travers is an outreach representative for CareMeridian, a subacute care facility located throughout the Western United States for patients suffering from traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury or medical complexities, such as neuromuscular or congenital anomalies.
Hockey and TBI
Hockey is arguably one of the most physical professional sports. Hockey players are constantly getting body checked, slammed into boards, falling to the ice, slapped by a stick, hit by a dense, speeding puck or getting punched during a fight. If that isn’t bad enough, hockey players take part in one of the longest regular seasons of any sport, effectively taking on harsher pain for a longer amount of time throughout the year. Risk of injury couldn’t be clearer as you all too commonly see hockey players missing their front two teeth. With all of the injuries that can occur, one of the most dangerous is a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
TBI is a silent injury that can cause harm to the mind and body of an individual. An injury to the head or brain can alter someone’s life and can even require long-term rehabilitation and care from a skilled nursing facility. These injuries are often far too common in the sport of hockey and if not properly treated can permanently leave a hockey player’s life more challenging than the game they play.
TBI is an injury that Philadelphia Flyers player Ian Laperriere knows all too well. In game 5 of an NHL playoff game with the New Jersey Devils, Laperriere took a slap shot to the face that immediately caused him to bleed excessively from the wound above his eye and lose sight. Laperriere was diagnosed with a brain contusion after having a MRI a few days later. While Laperriere may have originally thought that losing sight in one of his eyes was the worst of the two injuries, in reality the bigger concern could wind up being the long-term effects of the brain injury.
Concussions have been dismissed as minor injuries as the physical nature of most sports cause them to occur regularly, but, frequently occurring or not, they are still head injuries where the brain is forced to move violently within the skull and the way it functions could change permanently. When the brain moves in such a manner, it can bruise, bleed, and even tear, which can cause irreversible damage to the victim. For a sport like hockey, this type of injury is very common and unfortunately at times ignored.
Many hockey players don’t take into account the possible effects of the injury and because it might not seem like a serious problem exists at first, they keep on skating as if nothing occurred. Being unaware of the injury makes it much more dangerous, as a mild brain injury can turn into a life threatening injury in a very short period of time without seeking immediate medical treatment.
Studies by the National Academy of Neuropsychology’s Sports Concussion Symposium in New York have shown that since 1997, 759 NHL players have been diagnosed with a concussion. Broken down, that averages out to 76 players per season and 31 concussions per 1,000 games of hockey. That is far too frequent of an occurrence for such a serious injury. It’s a frightening statistic that should send up a red flag to hockey officials that actions need to be taken to further prevent this type of injury from occurring.
The best, and sometimes only, treatment for TBI is prevention. For the National Hockey League new rules are being considered that preserve the game but also help protect the players. Rule changes concerning blindside hits, rink size (which effects players space from each other and their proximity to walls), and stronger helmet requirements all have been considered to help curb TBI and its effects. This demonstrates that the NHL is aware of the seriousness of the injury and is taking proactive steps to help prevent it from happening.
Hockey is one of the most popular sports in North America and has millions of people participating in it every year. Unfortunately, the sport comes with the risk of a TBI. With the right awareness of the injury and the necessary precautions in place, the game should be able to continue with players excited to lace up their skates and enjoy it.
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Okay, hi, it’s Bourne again. Ten cents here:
We have to mandate soft(er)-cap shoulder/elbow pads.
We have to enforce the blind-side rule.
We have to accept the fact that playing hockey (or any sport) comes with some dangers, and if you really don’t want to get hurt, don’t play (that’s not being hardcore, or me saying “toughen up”, I mean seriously, choose not to play). We can’t turn hockey into Scrabble because sometimes people get Scrambled.
Charging and elbowing should be called when people charge or elbow (crazy concept). Everyone is pretty mutant-big at this point, so I’m not sure the extra decapi-stride is necessary.
And otherwise, I think the game is fine. It’s fast, and there’s contact, so it’s dangerous. Let’s enforce the rules as they are, but most of all, guy’s need to have some freakin’ respect for each other, and hopefully, by realizing just how serious these injuries are (MuhammedAli, MuhammedAli), hopefully guys will start taking less liberties on the ice. It stops being a game when guys like Patrice Cormier makes opponents convulse for no apparent reason.