Taylor Twellman, whose own career ended because of multiple concussions, says Marc Savard "could wake up tomorrow and feel 100 percent." And, in fact, the Bruins have a player on their roster -- Patrice Bergeron -- who has been able to get past concussion issues . . .
Cam Neely has two players on the roster who sit at opposite ends of the post-concussion spectrum: Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron was thrown headfirst into the boards and suffered a Grade 3 concussion in October of 2007-08. He wasnt cleared for full participation until the following preseason. But after showing positive signs for improvement, he collided with a member of the Carolina Hurricanes on December 20, 2007.
Another concussion. There was no timetable for return.
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Bergeron returned to play after little more than a month. His career since has been on an upswing.
How does a guy go from being physically unable to participate in hockey to leading the Bruins in points (20 goals, 29 assists through Feb. 24) in his third year back?
With time, with life, the brain will remodel itself, Harvard University athletic trainer Chad Krawiec states. Will it get to the point where you can play sports? Some people, no. But for living and functioning, your brain typically will. 100 of the time, no one can really say that. But for the majority of our athletes we deal with, as far as we know with the information we have now in 2011, the brain will react, recover, and get to a normal functioning level and be safe to play sports again.
Acknowledgment of symptoms, proper diagnosis, time to heal.
Its about the players themselves trying to be as honest as they can with the trainers, the doctors, Neely says. Its not like any other injury; the brain is a different animal. The players have to take the responsibility.
But the Bruins president a Hall of Fame NHLer understands that players want to play.
Athletes often draw their identities from their sport. Life beyond the game exists, but 10-15 years in the future may as well be 10-15,000; retirement is a reality to face only when theres nowhere else to look. Fear of disappointing coaches and teammates or losing their roster spots? The immediacy makes it real. Thats when the fear is worn like blinders.
Thats why the primary goal for an athlete after a concussion isnt always getting healthy; its getting back onto the ice.
A primary component of concussion recognition the identification of patient symptoms is in fact subjective, Krawiec admits.If the patient decides he does not want to report fully and honestly then he can, and we would have to go on that. Thats his own conscious risk hes taking, but he can obviously lie or just not report the severity.
The cognitive tests like the neuropsychological tests we administer are a little more difficult to cheat on. Some guys will intentionally do poorly on the healthy baseline test instituted in the NHL in 1997, thinking that when concussed a poor test will then look good sort of set the bar low to start. The problem is, even these mild concussive states place the brain in a susceptible position. The players may not think its a problem, but it can be dangerous.
Its difficult for spectators to understand why someone would knowingly put his brain in danger. For some athletes, surrendering to an invisible assailant, being patient as they watch their world pass by, is even harder.