The Head

Thursday August 10 2017


I wasn’t lookin too good but I was feelin real well”   Keith Richards


There is a word that has been whispered around sports admin circles for a few years now that is finally being heard outside the world of sports scientists and neurologists. Concussion has been a slow moving beast that is creeping across the sports landscape and has profound implications for some of the biggest sporting organizations on the globe.


To start we should point out that concussion is a by-product of living. Not playing sport in no way protects you from the consequences of smashing your head into something hard. And playing most sports only marginally increases your chances of suffering consequences beyond a 3-day headache.


The nature of Hockey means we will not have to deal with large numbers of impact brain injuries directly linked to playing the game and the accompanying scourge of mental illness. Put bluntly, you probably won’t suffer brain damage as a result of playing Hockey. If you play NFL there is a reasonable chance you will. And there is mounting evidence that protective headgear doesn’t help. In fact some believe it could be making things worse.


But that does not mean Hockey should not have protocols and procedures in place to deal with these cases when they occur. Recently this author suffered a concussion during a game of Hockey following an incident involving two feet, both of which were attached to this authors body, and a sudden change in my axis from vertical to horizontal.


At the time I realised I had taken a whack to the head but got up and continued playing. It was only following the game when I questioned the score, what ground I was at, how I had got there and what the giant marshmallow man was doing in the goal that anyone thought things were not quite right.


Well, everyone else thought that. As far as I was concerned everything was sweet. Except the score, cause I didn’t remember that many going in, certainly not against us.


And it is in that scenario that our sport can be more vigilant. If a player gets a nick across the eyebrow and pours blood we have no hesitation in driving them to the Dr for stiches and then home and arranging to get there car home and all sorts of other niceties.


Any one who has suffered a blood pouring eyebrow nick knows how frustrating an injury this can be. Not because it precludes you from playing, it’s because everyone fusses about you wanting to drive you to the Dr for stiches and take your car home.  


But fall over your own feet and the damage is not as easily recognised. Bit dazed, a little vague. It can sometimes be hard to tell. It may not be something that will lead to a long term debilitating illness, but it may be just enough to lose concentration as you approach a red traffic light.


Our sport does not need studies and working parties. Any modern medical sports professional should be able to recognise the symptoms of and the circumstances in which concussion is likely to occur.  The elite level is well covered.


It is at club level we need to be more aware of the symptoms of head injury and the circumstances in which it occurs. We can’t expect sufferers to self diagnose. We are not talking major neurological trauma. But we do need to be able to recognise when it may be best to give a teammate a lift home.



Hockey Tip No 056:  A hangover is not an Acquired Brain Injury.
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