Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gaborik Concussion Gets Cloudier All the Time (w/Video)

Yesterday the New York Rangers got their first bit of good news concerning their star sniper Marian Gaborik and his recovery from the concussion he suffered on February 13th on a hit from Brooks Orpik.  The fact that Gaborik had his first symptom free day on Tuesday, and was able to skate in practice on Wednesday is excellent news.  I do not want to take away from how positive that news is, but I am more and more disturbed by the chain of events that happened in the week between Gaborik taking the initial hit and when he was actually pulled from action three games later.
Update from today:
The positive news was dampened some this morning with the reports that while able to skate today, Gaborik awoke with a headache this morning, which is also being classified as pressure in his head.  There is a problem when a guy who is coming off a concussion is allowed to even skate with anything going on in his head and this idea that he wants to fly to Ottawa for tomorrow’s game should be scrapped immediately.
Back to yesterday:
Here is video from the Rangers official site of Gaborik meeting with the media after practice to talk about the concussion and his recovery:

Some of key quotes from his meeting with the media via Jesse Spector at Blueshirts Blog
"It was against Pittsburgh, I got hit by (Brooks) Orpik, and then during the shift after I kind of blacked out for a little bit," Gaborik said. "After that, I had headaches, and was dizzy and couldn't focus. I've never had a concussion, or whatever, before. I thought I was just going to play and it was just going to be a little bell-ringer, but it just kept getting worse and worse."
When any player, particularly a star player can tell the media that he literally blacked out, had headaches and was dizzy following a hit and was not checked it is a huge problem for me.  I understand the machismo factor that is involved here where Gaborik tries to brush off the symptoms and play through them, but his lack of understanding of what concussion symptoms are is not an excuse for him being able to play with one. 
The NHL is all about this new focus on concussions and yet here you have a player who was on the ice with one and if he played a different style of game than he does could have easily taken a blow to his already concussed head.  If the NHL is truly serious then they need to institute concussion testing to the level the NFL did this season, where you have a baseline result, if you receive a concussion you are done for that game and until you pass neurological testing you cannot play again. 
The onus for this is on the players, the teams and the league if they are truly serious about fixing this problem.  The players have to get over the stigma of admitting they got their bell rung and possibly being called soft for going out with a concussion and admit to the training staff like Jim Ramsay that something is wrong so they can be diagnosed.  The training staffs and coaching staffs have to be more aware of the potential for concussions and on the lookout for symptoms and anything that presents to possibly fit those symptoms must be checked.  The symptoms of the flu and a concussion can be similar and while in many cases it might be a waste of time to check for the concussion, do it anyway.
The fact that he played for an entire week, parts of four different games with a concussion is simply unacceptable and the more information that comes out the more questions there are about who knew what when and who is responsible for allowing that to happen.  The bulk of it has to go on the athlete himself if he was not forthcoming with the team and training staff, but the culture of the game both in the fear of being stigmatized as soft and the urgency to win now also played a role in this in my opinion.  We cannot overlook things that might be there because we want to play or as an organization we want to win.