Sunday, February 8, 2009

Concussions more serious than most realize

I try to keep up on the research surrounding concussions, because I've long believed they are more serious injuries than the sports world wants to admit. I've had my own bell rung a few times playing hockey, so it's a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

Last weekend I talked to three 2009-eligible players, and was sure to ask about their concussion histories, because it's important to know before betting on them long-term. Calvin de Haan's response shows how lightly concussions are taken by athletes.

HF: What kind of injuries have you had in your career?
CdH: I haven't really had injuries, knock on wood. Stitches a few times, that's it.

HF: No concussions?

CdH: A concussion here or there. Nothing like a busted femur. Mine wasn't that bad, just a minor one.

Some may be familiar with Sasha Pokulok, a Capitals former first rounder who has been with the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays the past couple years. He missed almost an entire season with two concussions in 2006-07, and he had another one a couple weeks ago. To my surprise, Pokulok is now back skating. At what point are the doctors going to tell him he should stop playing hockey for good? It should be soon. Sasha has a brother Nik Pokulok who is eligible for this year's draft, but given the hereditary nature of brain makeup, teams should be cautious taking him given his family concussion history.

The latest research shows that even one or two concussions have long-term effects, and repeated ones are debilitating later in life.

From The Star:

A single head blow during their playing days can leave athletes with significant physical and mental problems three decades after they've hung up their equipment, a new Canadian study says.

In the longest-term look ever at concussions in sports, University of Montreal researchers showed that athletes who had suffered even one minor bell ringing on the ice or football field had measurable brain and body reflex impairments 30 years later.

From the LA Times:

The headbanging collisions that thrill sports fans have lifelong effects on the athletes, with impairments in movement and thinking skills showing up 30 years or more after the concussions, researchers reported Tuesday.
Scientists are beginning to build stronger links between the injury and some of its long-term impacts, such as depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other quality of life issues.

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