One definition of epidemic: The occurrence of more cases of a disease than would be expected in a community or region during a given time period; a rapid spread, growth, or development.
Is that what we have in the NHL regarding concussions? It seems we can’t do a HOCKEY CENTRAL show anymore without referring to someone going down with another concussion. Tuesday it was Nashville’s Shea Weber and L.A.’s Simon Gagne. Tomorrow, who knows?
But is it an epidemic or is it just the knowledge and education getting the best of us. Don’t think for a minute I’m undervaluing the importance of identifying head injuries, but you can’t deny that just a short while ago we rarely saw this many players diagnosed with concussions or “concussion-like” symptoms.
Why? Because back then, as players, we didn’t know any better. We didn’t have the concussion education today’s players have, so we played through the symptoms. The last thing in the world we wanted was a teammate, coach or general manager looking at us thinking we were soft.
Just as many players likely had concussions, they were just never properly identified.
Today is much different. Now GMs are more sensitive to concussions than ever before and teams are more willing to shut a guy down for seven to 10 days just to be on the safe side.
I think if the grade of concussion were made public, we’d see many of these guys out with Grade 1 concussions. I am not saying these aren’t legitimate concussions, but I am saying there is a difference between these five-, six- and seven-day concussions and the more serious ones suffered by Sidney Crosby, Marc Staal and Chris Pronger.
Earlier this year we saw Brent Seabrook leave a game after Rene Bourque hit him into the glass, but he managed to play the next game. NHL leading scorer Claude Giroux missed only six days and thankfully picked up where he left off with a four-point night against Dallas. Marcus Kruger missed only one game after Deryk Engelland rocked his world. The early indications out of Nashville are Weber, who has already missed one game, is expected to be back before the end of the week.
Many of these concussions have led people to believe we have a huge epidemic on our hands, when in reality many are precautionary diagnosis more than anything else. Trust me when I say this from personal experience, a significant concussion is longer than a day-to-day injury. I know doctors will say every concussion is “significant”, but let’s face it, there are times when a pro has to play at less than 100 per cent, be it a knee, a shoulder, or, dare I say it, a head.
It’s great that we have evolved in this concussion world to know it’s now better to have players shut down for a week rather than having them play through minor symptoms and putting themselves in jeopardy of getting hit again and again only to miss a few months with a Grade 3 or 4 concussion.
But we also must realize that the “better to be safe than sorry” approach hasn’t created this epidemic everyone is screaming over.