Sunday, November 18, 2007

Avoiding the C-word

Add Simon Gagne to the list of prominent Flyers felled by a concussion, a group that includes former captains Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau.

It took two bouts of dizziness and other symptoms for the determination to be made Wednesday that Gagne sustained at least one concussion, if not two.
It's been interesting, and just a tad horrifying, to see how Philadelphia has dealt with what we now learn — surprise, surprise — is a concussion suffered by their star winger.

Gagne was originally hurt 25 days ago in a game against the Panthers, the result of a hit to the jaw by Jay Bouwmeester. He sat four games with what the Flyers termed "dizziness," returned to the ice in less-than-stellar condition and was back on the sidelines after taking another hit in a game a few days later.

The Flyers have unfortunately gained a reputation already in the league for misdiagnosing, or underdiagnosing, serious injuries, something that resulted in a $1.37-million award to former defenceman Dave Babych after he sued the team for making him play injured. Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau and now Gagne have had curious goings on surround their concussions, the latest of which come across as downright absurd.

It was clear from the beginning that Gagne took a blow to the head and sustained some sort of trauma, whether that injury was labelled a concussion or not. If the league's going to have guidelines about when players can return from these injuries, they need to be based on something more than what word is used in the 'injury' column next to their name.

A concussion by any other name...

Here's Paul Holmgren:
"He wanted to play, and obviously we wanted him to play. Did we push him back too soon? Hindsight is a great thing. Maybe we did. We would like to believe we didn't give him enough practice time to get himself ready."
Given what's on the line, that's just not acceptable.

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At 12:21 p.m., November 18, 2007, Blogger S said...

James, I totally agree with you on this one. The initial hit on Gagne looked pretty innocent, but obviously it wasn't. They rushed him into re-taking a baseline test that he failed.

With prominent Flyers receiving concussions, maybe it's time to consider the medical staff and ponder their role in all of this.

The Flyers have nursed Gagne into their system for almost the last 10 years, and he's rewarded them with very consistent numbers. They owe it to him, their future and the $10 million they are paying Briere to give him all the time and help he wants, not to dance around a diagnosis. It's wrong and embarrassing otherwise.

At 12:31 p.m., November 18, 2007, Blogger d-lee said...

I was under the impression that the league mandated baseline tests for guys who have had things like "head trauma" and "dizziness". I guess I was wrong.
Unless the league does start to mandate these things and force concussed players to sit out, we're going to see a lot of guys end up with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or "Pugilistic Parkinson's" or "Dimentia Pugilistica" or "Punch-Drunk Syndrome" or whatever you want to call it.
Remember that former Steelers player who led police in a fatal high speed chase in September 2004? He had CTE.
Remember that wrestler guy who killed his wife and kids this summer? CTE.
CTE doesn't always cause people to go on a rampage, but it's tragic, just as any form of Dementia is tragic.
Muhammad Ali? CTE.
If the league doesn't take this seriously, there could be a lot of lawsuits in the future.

At 1:33 p.m., November 18, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

aiThis is something that I could actually see the NHLPA get behind; having a set of standards for INDEPENDENT medical staff to evelueate concussions and other head trauma. There wouldn't be any debate among the players, as there might be with grandfathering in mandatory visors or other possible safety measures, and the ombudsman Lindros would be a credible and articulate voice on the issue.

If the players don't look after their own health, a coach or GM looking to safeguard his job by putting a star player on the ice too soon sure as hell won't. Especially, apparently, in Philly.

There has been a lot of recent research on concussions, not just in professional athletes. Doctors have been seeing it more and more in high-school and younger athletes (especially in football and soccer), and it would be a good thing in general for the NHL to set an example by taking concussions seriously.

At 2:15 p.m., November 18, 2007, Anonymous Rod said...

Although the Oilers didn't avoid the word concussion, they had a similar situation with Stoll last year. In January, Pahlsson (Ana) ran Stoll's head into the top of the end boards (no penalty of course). Stoll, like all players, wanted to get back out there. He returned to the line up eight days later. It was obviously too soon as a fairly innocent looking play knocked him out of the line up for the rest of the season. Hopefully Gagner's situation isn't as serious.

Regardless of the severity of Gagner's current condition, the Flyers handling of Gagner is alarming. Given their history, it's bordering on ethically reprehensible. You'd think by now they'd be more careful and protective than any team.

At 2:19 p.m., November 18, 2007, Blogger Pinder said...

between this and the dirty hits, the flyers are still a mess.

At 4:01 p.m., November 18, 2007, Blogger Bruce said...

What is it with the Flyers and concussions? They giveth and they receiveth.

But this part is no surprise at all: Gary (Headshot) Roberts induces another concussion. I didn't see this particular shot, but I've seen hundreds of Roberts hits over the years which are invariably (a) high (b) from behind or (c) both.

At 4:37 p.m., November 18, 2007, Anonymous said...

Like you said James, the Flyers have a long history of treating their own players like a renewable resource. They also have a history of drafting players who treat other NHLers the same way. Both are disgraceful.

There seems to be something ugly about the FLyers organization. Trying to live up to their nickname I guess.

At 4:40 p.m., November 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things come to mind: Dr. Nick Riviera and the word "negligence."

At 5:49 p.m., November 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not only concussions in Philly. I can't remember their condition coach's name but he is a beauty.

Philly has usually 5-7 surgeries for their players after the season is over because minor injuries had become major injuries because of this bully.

He is pushing guys in gym when doctors have said that rest is required.

It's no secret among the players that Joni Pitkanen demanded a trade on one reason was this lack of respect for injuries.

If I have heard correctly Pitkanen told Philly doctors and trainers and coaches early in 2005-6 season that his groin/lower abs are hurting big time.

They pushed him until he needed a surgery and missed eight weeks. But that's not enough. He was pushed back way too soon and young kid missed Olympics.

This is Flyers' culture from days of glory (70s). Clarke and Homer embrace it and results are obvious.

Hopefully NHLPA will get things in order because in the end everybody benefits.

At 2:29 a.m., November 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about Niitymaki. I don't know what a torn labrum is, but every so often it's mentioned when Nittymaki's struggles in net are in the news. As in, "it'll need surgery this off-season." Well, if it needs surgery in the off-season, why doesn't it need it now? The Top Goalie at the World Tourney a couple years ago, he's just a piece of meat to the Flyers.

At 10:46 a.m., November 19, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

There's nothing inherently wrong with saying that someone needs surgery after the season, but not getting it now. Once you have labrum surgery, your season is finished. If you can function in the meantime, it is often better to do your recovery and rehab during the off-season and miss fewer games.

That said, I can't think of any reason to trust the Flyers' judgment on whether to go ahead and have surgery, or wait and risk further damage. The seem as if they are just clueless in the medical department. Perhaps not as bad as the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have made misdiagnosis an art form, but bad.

Medical staff is one of the hidden things that differentiate good organizations from bad ones. Quality medical people are expensive, and you have to be willing to listen to them when they tell you something you don't want to hear. Much like statisticians, they're also prone to talking in likelihoods rather than certainties, so you can always just go with the optimistic assumption.


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