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Concussion Epidemic Strikes Flyers, and the NHL, Hard

In the past two months, concussions have been running rampant in NHL. While part of that may be general recklessness that happens in the game of hockey, especially at the highest level of hockey in the world, the other part may be the fact that we are getting better at recognizing concussion-like symptoms. While it may be too late for some guys to salvage their careers, and that could be for any number of circumstances that may include age or prior concussions, this rash of concussions may actually benefit the game. That may sound twisted, but I implore you to keep reading.

During this month alone, the Flyers have lost three players to concussions. Brayden Schenn was the key piece of the deal that sent former Flyers captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings. He's played in six games this year due to starting the year with the team's AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, for rehabilitation of a shoulder injury and cap constraints. When he was finally called up, he took a slapshot from PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens off of his foot, and as we were to find out later, the shot broke his foot. He returned that to face a new issue, and that is this "mild" concussion. Hopefully, this is just "one of those years" for the 20-year-old Schenn and he can come back and finish the year with the Flyers strongly. Current Flyer captain Chris Pronger has also fallen as a victim of post-concussion-syndrome. We just found out yesterday that he will be placed on LTIR (long-term injured reserve) for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs (if the Flyers do make it). This will be a huge loss for the Flyers on the blue line as Pronger is one of the best in the game, no matter if you hate him or love him. Many have called for the Flyers to go out and acquire either Shea Weber or Ryan Suter from the Nashville Predators, but currently playing are rookies Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon. Both have been rather pleasant surprises because no one expected them to be NHL ready at the end of training camp. Finally, emerging superstar Claude Giroux was recently diagnosed with a concussion and is out "indefinitely". It is believed he sustained his concussion after taking an accidental knee to the head from teammate Wayne Simmonds. Giroux was leading the NHL in points with 39 in 28 games, a three point lead on second place Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Giroux and 39 year-old Jaromir Jagr were looking to be one of the most dominant duos in the NHL this season and have turned linemate Scott Hartnell's season around.

Around the league, many other star players were going down with head injuries as well. Leading goal scorer Milan Michalek, of the Ottawa Senators, Jeff Skinner, of the Carolina Hurricanes, and NHL megastar Sidney Crosby are the three big players effected. Crosby had played only 8 games after coming back from a 10 month absence from the game due to a concussion sustained during a collision with David Steckel during last year's Winter Classic and then a vicious hit from Tampa Bay defender Victor Hedman in successive games. Skinner was last year's Calder Trophy winner, besting Islander, Michael Grabner, and San Jose Shark, Logan Couture. He was one of the only shining stars for the Carolina Hurricanes, as their season has gotten of to a horrendous beginning that saw former coach, Paul Maurice, get fired. Captain Eric Staal has not been living up to expectations and stalwart goaltender, Cam Ward, has looked relatively average up to this point. Michalek has been a key part of the turnaround for the Senators. After a 7-2 trouncing on home ice handed to them by the Flyers, the Senators' season has been trending upwards. Michalek led the league in goals with 19 and was a frontrunner in All-Star voting.

For players like Giroux and Skinner, this early diagnosis may help them to have better careers than if they were to play a few years back, when concussions were not taken as seriously as they are today. They will come back eventually and enjoy a long and fruitful career, hopefully being less susceptible to concussions then they would be if the signs hadn't been spotted almost immediately. Crosby's status is still a little bit up in the air since he played such a short time before succumbing to symptoms after a collision with teammate, Chris Kunitz. Having those players back as soon as possible can only be good for the game of hockey itself. Three of it's top players, or soon to be, are sidelined. For players like the 37 year-old Pronger, the early diagnosis and emphasis on better treatment may help him lead a better life, less effected by his symptoms, outside of the game.

Concussions suck, I know that first hand. However, with the treatment at hand and the fact that teams are getting so good at recognizing symptoms, along with advancements in safety equipment, can mean good things for the game.

1 comment:

  1. The worst job in professional hockey: Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers. Name a Flyers captain whose career has gone well since being awarded the "C" since the time of Eric Lindros?