Concussion should be taken seriously

Martin Havlat, leading scorer for Chicago Hawks sustained a major concussion in Game 3 of the Playoff’s against Detroit Red Wings.

After being knocked cold for more than a minute, and then helped off the ice by a teammate and doctor, he returned for Game 4 only 2 days later – experts are saying not long enough to recover from such a trauma.

“It’s the NHL, it’s the playoffs, so guys are willing to do a little bit more…but it sure seemed that two days later was sort of pushing things” says concussion specialist Michael Czarnota, the neuropsychology consultant for the Canadian Hockey League.

A hit in the second period of Game 4 sent Havlat off the ice again, and he did not return for the rest of the game.

“It could have been an unrelated injury, but I think it’s also just as possible that that caused his symptoms to come back, or the staff made some kind of decision — if he was involved in another big hit, we’re not going to take a chance,” Czarnota said.

Hockey has the highest rate of concussion of any sport, and players still don’t realize that the brain damage sustained from concussions is not reversible – there is no surgery that can fix it. That damage has a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This recent research into brain damage in football players is helping to clarify just how serious an injury concussion can be.

“The idea that you can whack your head hundreds of times in your life and knock yourself out and get up and be fine is gone,” says ex-Harvard footballer Chris Nowinski. “We know we can’t do that anymore. This causes long-term damage.”

With so many people watching Hockey and the playoffs, it is important to show that head injuries need to be taken seriously – at all levels of sport.

Czarnota adds – “It’s just really hard to drive that message home when there’s not some kind of a caveat to say this is why we did this. My wish list is that this is a learning case that gets discussed more openly in the summer. And maybe that’s the best thing that comes out of it.”

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