Of Crosby and Concussions

this is your brain...

photo cred: miaminewtimes.com

On Nov. 21st, just before Sidney Crosby made his triumphant return to the NHL after nearly a year on the shelf from dual concussions, I felt compelled to compose and send the following to Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski,

Sidney Crosby’s return marks the end of a worry for possibly millions of fans across the globe. A worry that the best player in the world today has been in a word, Lindros’d.

But for me, it only marks the beginning of a new worry; that this could be the worst decision of his life.

But who is this same-aged Rangers fan from Long Island? A guy who has been having the Ovechkin vs. Sid debate since the lockout and choosing Ovie each time. Why would I care?

I care because I know what it’s like to have your life literally trapped in an indefinite crippling holding pattern just to recover from Post Concussion Syndrome. I had to leave school and live my life through dark sunglasses, ear buds, and hardly being able to remember what I had for breakfast.

I know what it’s like when the doctor recommends that you shut everything down to “just let your brain heal,” by literally doing absolutely nothing for months on end. I know what the seemingly insurmountable despair and boredom your life’s utter nothingness does to you. It’s like you’re in your own personal isolation cell with your brain perpetually on fire. Constantly fearful of irritants that can re-spark intense migraines, crippling nausea and wild mood swings.

And the cherry on top; no one truly understands what you’re going through. No one can help you. There’s no AA. No meds. No distractions. Just burning pain, confusion and fear.

It was two years ago this past Halloween I suffered my fifth concussion (third major) in the past nine years. I still struggle with the ripple effects, and I don’t have any of the pressures of a Crosby, or even a struggling family. I just have me. And my struggles.

The Kid symbolizes a lot of things for me. He symbolizes the idyllic super star because he makes his mates better and outworks everyone.  He also symbolizes an utter lack of understanding for a devastating condition that I sincerely doubt he’s overcome. How does one overcome brain damage exactly anyway?

But, he, along with other players like Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Patrice Bergeron and soon to return David Perron, give me hope that I too can break through and pick up where I left off if I just keep working hard.

For that, I thank each of you.

Wysh was kind enough to respond only a few hours later with a thank you and that he “may do a round up of Sid stuff later, and will pop this in.” He didn’t, and that’s fine.

Fast forward to today, Crosby’s return lasted just eight game over two weeks. And now his career is sincerely in question.

But, why is anyone surprised? As Wysh’s podcast-mate Jeff Marek of Sportsnet.ca said so aptly last week, “Hockey is a concussion sport.” To wit, Lyle Richardson on Sunday clearly illustrates at his site, Spector’s Hockey, hockey is a sport that can’t not have head injuries.

  “As for finding one specific reason for the occurrence of these injuries, that may be unreasonable. Players on skates traveling at high speeds, encased in hard, plastic protective gear, clutching long, narrow sticks, playing in an enclosed space on a hard, slippery, unforgiving surface, surrounded by boards and shatter-proof glass run a significant risk of injury.”

Doesn’t that say enough about hockey when it comes to concussions?

When it comes to my decision as to whether or not to play (any form of) hockey, or any other contact sport, the answer still isn’t easy. I’m a person who feels more at ease competing in a game than almost anything else. But in the end, I still have in the back of my mind, “Hey, be careful. This isn’t worth it.”

Now try to imagine what it’s like for athletes who are on the cusp of making it to the show. Working their whole lives to realize their dreams, and potentially make some serious bank.

Now try to imagine what it’s like for those who have made it to the show, are established, and may be forced to reconsider what they’ve worked their whole lives for, achieved and still pursue to conquer. Save for a mad few, it can’t be easy.

I just hope no one ends up like this.

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