Is there a concussion 'epidemic' in hockey?

Is there a concussion 'epidemic' in hockey?

By MaryPaoletti

The left wing looks up ice and sees the opposing right wing has a step on the defense in a chase for the puck. There are two defensemen on the play; neither has a hit. One misses a poke at the puck. The left wing fears a breakaway. He accelerates through neutral ice, pushes himself over the blue line and into the attacking zone, eyes on his target. The right wings head is down, eyes only for the puck, wary of the defensemen but focused. He doesnt see the left wing coming in for a backcheck. He loses the puck for a second just above the slot, so close to the goal and reaches forward for it. Hes suddenly turned to the incoming left wing. Daniel Paille, the left wing, has committed to contact. He had decided on a play on the shoulder and follows through. Raymond Sawada, the opposing right wing, gets punched out of his stride and knocked backwards. He puts his arms out to brace the impact of his head and shoulders smacking on the ice, his legs flying up in the air. He slides on his back, then over onto his belly toward the goal. Daniel Paille in redirected momentum -- narrowly avoids a collision with one of his own defenseman. "Solid check," thinks Paille.

The play takes five seconds. It earns Paille a four-game suspension.

The 26-year-olds backcheck is an illegal hit under Rule 48, which prohibits a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted andor is the principle point of contact . . . His five-minute major and game-misconduct penalties were standard; the suspension, supplemental. The discipline was part of the NHLs effort at a zero-tolerance policy for hits to the head.

Afterwards, controversy erupted . . . but completely off topic. On network television in Canada (Don Cherry) and the United States (Mike Milbury), the incident was painted as Andrew Ference (It was a bad hit) against the supposed majority (Its just going to happen) in the Bruins clubhouse.

Ference is amazed his comments got so much attention in trying to find a locker-room schism. He feels the focus should be on concussive contact, teammate or not.

No matter what sport any sport, even without contact therell be concussions," Ference says. The issues that the leagues dealing with are the ones that are preventable, the ones that are dangerous.

When discussing concussions, its not unusual for the focus to be off topic.

The NHL picked up concussion research after 1994, when the NFL began its own in earnest. It gained traction publicly when high-profile stars Pat LaFontaine (retired in 1998) and Eric Lindros (2007) had their careers clipped by concussions. LaFontaines symptomal depression is well documented; Lindros is rumored to be a shell of himself. The list of casualties has since been populated by other big names Sidney Crosby and Marc Savard, most notably. Each is painstakingly detailed by the media and sent to the masses.

Concussions are an issue in any sport . . . even in what are thought to be non-contact sports, like soccer. (See: Taylor Twellman.) But lost in the new awareness of the dangers of head injuries is this fact: Instances of concussions gone catastrophically wrong are rare.

NEXT: Are there more concussions, or more awareness of concussions?

Bergeron 'feeling good' in return, plays role of third period hero

Bergeron 'feeling good' in return, plays role of third period hero

BOSTON – It certainly feels appropriate that Patrice Bergeron would author a clutch game-winning goal late in the third period of his first game back after missing a week of games with a lower body injury. That Bergeron’s game-winner also arrived in the home opener at TD Garden was an added bonus once No. 37 hammered a shot from the high slot with 1:15 to go in the third period to give the Bruins their first lead of the game in a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden.

The goal arrived courtesy of a nifty setup from linemate Brad Marchand working behind the New Jersey net, and also thanks to David Pastrnak winning a battle in the corner thanks to newfound grit in his game. But the hero of the day again turned out to be No. 37, who went from missing an entire week of action to reclaiming his center role on the top line, playing 16:49 of ice time and winning 13-of-24 face-offs while generating five shot attempts.

“I think it’s pretty obvious with what he did [against the Devils]. After being off for over a week and to come back and have one practice with us then back into the game, he scores a clutch goal for us. That’s what he has always been, a clutch player for us,” said Claude Julien. “I think the third period we gave it a really good push there and I like seeing that from our team that you come out and you don’t play on your heels and you push hard and we went down by a goal but we got our game going like I said and we got a couple goals to win this for us.”

Bergeron modestly said postgame that he was just trying to get into the flow of the game after missing a healthy chunk of time with injury. But he certainly looked like he was vintage form once it crunch time. The timing was perfect as he stepped into the one-timer shot off Marchand’s pass, and beat Cory Schneider amid a strong 34-save performance by the kid from Marblehead.

“I mean I was just trying to, I guess, get my feet wet right away and use the first few shifts to kind of just get, feel good about my positioning and my skating,” said Bergeron. “As the game went on I just felt better. Of course you want to start on a good note, especially at home, and we talked about our home record in the last few years. We wanted to do the job early, especially in the first game, and it’s one step but we’re happy with it.”

It was like Bergeron didn’t miss a single beat after missing the first three games of the season with a lower body injury, and those kinds of instincts and natural ability are things worth marveling about when it comes to the Bruins.

“I was feeling good [on the ice],” said Bergeron. “It would have been nice to ride the wave of the World Cup, but that being said I thought in the first I was trying to be good position ally and kind of get myself going with the first few shifts, and just kind of go from there. Overall I thought that happened.”

While the comeback win was certainly good news for the Bruins, the best news of all is that Bergeron has returned to the lineup with no signs of an injury that surprised everybody right before the start of the regular season.