On January 1, 2011 during the highly touted and much hyped Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby was hit by David Steckel and hit again by Victor Hedman on January 5. He is the league’s leading point-scorer, but has missed every game (5) since the Hedman hit. This clip in which he gives an update on his condition is very good education not only for younger hockey players, but for anyone interested about the effect a concussion has on athletes (especially those as competitive and talented as Sidney Crosby) – it’s 9 minutes long, but he describes the way he feels, the seriousness of the injury and the general confusion surrounding concussions. To anyone who has had a concussion or another type of brain injury, his description makes sense, to most others, it doesn’t. It’s been over 7 years since I flew off my bike, hit a tree and was in a coma for the next two weeks. Trying to explain or describe the way I felt is an extremely difficult task and, as no one brain injury is like another, no one ever gets the full understanding, even if they’ve had a brain injury themselves. Granted, a coma is a more serious condition than a concussion, but as a lot of time has passed since my coma and many of the symptoms discussed by Crosby are still with me. “Feeling ‘off'” is certainly not descriptive and many would think it’s not very helpful. However, doctors know what it means and find it helpful, but even they can’t fully understand the feeling unless they’ve been brain injured themselves. It may not seem articulate, but even Shakespeare would find his vocabulary lacking if he tried to describe the way he was feeling following a brain injury. I recommend watching the clip!
His talent, his strength and his work ethic have never been in doubt. Unfortunately, the sports media has a tendency to discuss returning from injury as “how badly he wants it”, equating injury recovery of a star athlete to a sports moral value. Education around concussions and other brain injuries has improved and the NFL and NHL are to be commended for that (better late than never, I guess). Even the toughest, “suck it up and play” commentators/athletes recognize that the brain is not to be treated lightly and seem – at least in public – to be holding off their criticism of players and giving them time to return to play.
The NHL and Sidney Crosby have an excellent education opportunity right now. Younger athletes and contemporaries alike can see the importance with which the NHL is treating concussions. Even the best player, the Canadian Olympic hero is being told not to rush back and to only play when he’s ready. He has no casts, no crutches, no visible injury, no scars and his team is struggling without him in the line up, yet Crosby has probably been counselled that returning too early would jeopardize not only his season, but could seriously effect his career. Younger hockey players and younger athletes in general will be able to look up to an incredibly talented, hard working, prolific goal scorer who had a concussion, recognized the importance of being self-aware and didn’t return when he thought he ‘should’, but when he knew he could.