I wanted to write a brief post on a few things I have seen in the news recently regarding concussions. In these instances of concussion in the news the first I wanted to point out is what happened to Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward in May 2018 and the other is what Detroit Red Wing NHL athlete Johan Franzen is going through.
If you missed it Jason Heyward was out for 7 days in May due to a concussion. Heyward banged his head against the right-field wall as he attempted to reach for a ball that ended up being a home run. He busted his lip on the play, but it wasn’t until a day or two later that he started to feel the effects of the concussion. He said he assumed at the time it was normal soreness after a long night.”I noticed my head wasn’t feeling right,” Heyward said. “I wasn’t going to say anything, and then eventually, I was glad I did.” If you watch the play, and I hope you will, the bump against the wall looks rather benign. It is the kind of thing every outfielder seems to do when they jump for a ball about to go out of the park. Heyward apparently didn’t initially think much of it because he at first was going to ignore how he felt as soreness. Thankfully he mentioned it and got some rest and recovery time.
Johan Franzen has not played in the NHL since the 2015 season. He was in the news recently because his wife blogged about his struggles with the aftereffects of his multiple concussions. Franzen still has two year remaining on his contract and is under care at a facility in Denver to help him get back to some semblance of normal. Her post is simple but poignant because we get a glimpse of what cumulative injuries can do to a persons mindset, emotions, an relations with others. In the 2015-2016 season he was returning to the ice after recovering from a concussion during the end of the 2014-2015 season. I also found he reported a concussion in the 2010-2011 season but being 38 years old and therefore a veteran in the NHL it is likely he has had others that went unreported.
Jason Heyward is the example of managing a concussion properly from an athlete point of view. He was not injured in a way that caused the coaching staff or league to have him looked at for concussion. To his credit he decided to speak up and get time for his brain to rest, recover and heal. If he did not and continued to play and have another concussion his symptoms and the implications would have been much worse. Looking at Johan Franzen we see what happens to an athlete after multiple concussions, probably not treated properly with enough rest. From what I have read about concussions Franzen’s situation is not due to one or even two concussions his condition is likely connected to cumulative damage over his career in hockey. He likely had an instance or two similar to Heyward where he was injured but didn’t report it because it was not due to an event that was easily noticed as a concussion.
The topic of concussions is very complicated, what we know about the condition is still very little. What I have read and come to understand is that the way to avoid the serious cumulative damage and still play sports is to manage each injury appropriately. This means identifying any possible brain injury and taking time to rest for the brain to recover, just like Jason Heyward did. I do not fault Johan Franzen for his situation because he is old enough to have played during a time when we did not know as much about concussion and value the significance of the injury. His story is an example of one who had multiple concussions resulting in cumulative damage and significant mental, emotional, and functional effects.
We provide a class on concussion called Concussion Roulette. In it we try to end the ambiguity and describe what a concussion is, how to manage it properly and what happens if we don’t. It is much more than a class on the signs and symptoms of concussion, we dive a bit deep into the meat of the subject. If you want to know more, get in touch with us as we give this talk in the office about once a year but are always looking for new groups of people to get in front of to give this talk to.