The injury woes for the Blackhawks have taken a turn for the worse since the calendar rolled over to 2012. Gone are the days of almost no injuries for the Hawks and if the latest report is correct it could be a serious blow.
On Wednesday, Joel Quenneville commented on the injury status of Jonathan Toews for the Dallas game. He listed Toews as day-to-day with an upper body injury and is out for Thursday night’s contest.
Shorty thereafter it was reported by Jay Zawaski of 670 The Score, that his source indicated Toews suffered a concussion. The injury is thought to have occurred during the Hawks recent nine game road trip. The conjecture being Toews suffered the concussion most likely in the San Jose game on February 10. The Blackhawks have not confirmed Toews has suffered a concussion.
Hawk fans will recall Toews was being abused in the Sharks game. In that contest seemingly after every whistle in the early going, Toews was a target. The chippy play finally settled down after Jamal Mayers was moved up to play on the Toews line.
The concussion issue in the NHL may be worse than in any other sport. Not only are players being diagnosed with more head injuries, these days the system to deal with them is cloudy at best.
The only redeeming value in the entire mess is players are being diagnosed more frequently. Many believe the occurrence rate of concussions was high in the past but the injuries were not often recognized. That said, almost everything else about hockey and concussions is a tangled web.
NHL players, maybe more so than other professional sports, are hard-wired to play through injury. If in fact Toews suffered a concussion against the Sharks, he kept playing for another five games. Some would say that’s brave as the captain didn’t want to sit out, especially because his team wasn’t playing well. Others with a more pragmatic view would conclude it’s stupid to risk long term health by not recognizing symptoms as soon as they occur.
Toews only knows for sure what he felt like and when. What we do know for certain is Toews has suffered at least one concussion in the past. A reasonable mind could conclude Toews has suffered a few concussions since he began playing hockey at an organized level. The danger is, no one can reasonably say what the lasting effects from concussions are likely to be.
In my view, the concussion procedures for the NHL leaves a lot to be desired. If a player hides an injury and it wasn’t obvious when he received it, there probably isn’t much that can be done. In the past, players who have suffered concussions have been quoted to say they have hid their injury from a team doctor.
To take it a step further, my thinking is there could be a possible conflict of interest for team physicians who administer the test to conclude there is a concussion. The same doctors would then administer additional tests which would indicate when a player is cleared to return action.
Not to say a team doctor would look past an injury so a player could stay in the lineup or return more quickly, but they are being put in a difficult position. It has been reported players will “game the system” if they can. In essence they will give the answers to questions which they believe the team doctor wants to hear. Those verbal replies can be lies, or the player could have a familiarity with the doctor so he can answer in a way to get by.
Hopefully someday soon the NHL will follow the lead of the NFL and have independent doctors administer tests for concussions.
The NHL is aware the process can be made better. I have spoken to someone from the league office who concurs current procedures have holes. The issue now is one of money and logistics. In the NFL, teams play once a week. In the NHL, clubs can play four or five times in the same span of time. That makes it more difficult to organize standardize testing with an official third party doctor.
Toews was held out of action for Tuesday’s game versus Detroit with a reported upper body injury. When a NHL player is injured, specifics are normally not given as to the nature of the problem. The thinking behind the vague reporting of either being an upper or lower body injury is to protect the player when he returns to action. Hockey can be a brutally rough sport. A player returning from a hand/wrist injury for example, could receive a few more slashes to that area depending on the game conditions.
Unless a player is out for an exceedingly long time and or has a broken bone or requires surgery, the true nature of his injury is normally not reported. Sometimes it is well down the road or after the season before anyone from the media gets a substantiated reason for a player’s absence from the lineup.
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