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Personal Experience with Head Trauma

Guest Dynamo 47

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In light of the Chris Pronger injury I wanted to share my personal experience with multiple head injuries and how I still suffer to this date.

All told I have been diagnosed with 6 concussions total and not sure how many undiagnosed. Just about all of them were related to hockey. What's more sad is that it was playing house league hockey and never received a dime of compensation. I simply loved the game of hockey and that love of the game with continue to haunt me the rest of my life.

My first concussion that I can remember was in a house league game back when I was in my late 20's. I had my head down and got totally nailed. I literally saw stars but thought nothing of it and keeping with the hockey player code, finished my shift, got the number and kept playing. After the game I took a big drink of Gatorade and immediately puked my guts up. Again, I didn't think anything of it and went to the bar after the game, and went home. The next morning I woke up with a really bad headache and felt sort of "foggy". I just didn't feel right and decided to go to the doctor. My roommate and teammate drove me to the doctors where they gave me a shot for the pain and diagnosed me with a concussion. His recommendation was some bed rest and a prescription for the pain. He suggested someone stay with me to keep and eye on me.

I had headaches that persisted for several days before they were gone.

About 3 games later, while crashing the net, the goalie cleared the puck and the follow through on his stick hit my face with full force and knocked out three of my teeth. I remember seeing a flash of white light when his stick hit my face and that was it. My teammates told me I spit out my teeth and finished my shift but I had no recollection of it. After the game I vomited and apparently was not acting right so my one buddy who was an EMT, asked me some questions. Apparently I was telling the guys about what a great hockey player D!ck Butkus was before throwing up. They took me to the hospital.

I do remember being in the hospital and before the hit. It was a playoff game which we won so the team was going to the pub to celebrate. My face was a mess as my teeth were stumps on one tooth and huge fat lip. The doctor apparently was not satisfied with my baseline tests and wanted to admit me to the hospital. Of course knowing the team was going out that night I didn't want to stay and left but the doctor had said bed rest, no alcohol or sleep aids, and I needed to have someone monitor me and wake me every two hours. So of course I went out with my team, we got hammered and went back to my buddy's house. To his credit he woke me every two hours until way late in the night he asked if I was OK as he was beat.

Concussion number 3 was the worst. I went to my family doctor who is also a friend of mine and he basically explained to me that once the brain is concussed; subsequent head injuries will happen easier and be more severe. To demonstrate he brought a watermelon into his office and said this was my head. He then hit is which made a soft spot and said when you get a concussion this is what happens. Then he hit it in a different spot and said after multiple times the impact is worse until he cracked it open.

His advice was to refrain from not only hockey but any activity that presented the risk of a head injury. My team had made the championship finals and we had lost the prior two season championships in the last game so I was not missing it. I remember a face off and in the ensuing scrum, someone's elbow coming up and catching my eye and rocking my head back. My friends said my eye immediately swelled shut but true to form, finished my shift. I remember a little headache but nothing major. We won the game and I went home as my head really started hurting so I passed on going out.

I remember talking to my girlfriend out of state and then going to bed. The next morning my roommates woke me up and asked where I went the night before. I said "What do you mean? I talked to Dana and went to bed". They said that I didn't because when they got home they saw my car parked but when they went back to get me I was gone. They said I was no where in the house.and the looked all over. They joked and said I better check the papers to see if a bank was robber or another crime committed in the area. Apparently I looked out of it and they took me to the hospital where I was taken for CT scans and admitted with some light bleeding.

To make a long story short, I suffered 3 more concussions to where I am still impacted today. Aside from debilitating headaches, I suffer from memory issues, and other symptoms. The headaches which are frequent are devastating migraines that totally keep me bedridden. I have to be in the pitch dark, ice cold, and deathly quiet. Often the headaches are accompanied by severe vomiting from the pain. Some other symptoms which many are unfamiliar with are mood swings and my personality actually changing. Where I was almost always upbeat and happy and let nothing bother me, now short patience and violent mood swings to where the slightest thing will set me off. I actually underwent some tests that show some signs of permanent damage.

I was curious if others have experienced similar issues. I share this only because I was a hockey bum and my life is now forever changed due to the head injuries I sustained. From a selfish standpoint I would love to see Pronger suit up again but based on my experience, I hope he retires and that the damage isn't too severe.

Sorry for the length of the post but I thought it would be interesting to share. Dynamo 47

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  • Thanks for sharing your personal story. How horrible for you. It certainly makes you second (and third) guess any decisions regarding concussions. I wish you well.

Thanks Bert. I tell the kids on my sons team and their parents to not ignore symptoms and to address it immediately. One thing that a lot of parents don't understand is a mouth piece is a great piece of equipment to help absorb the impact of concussions.

I know I honestly considered modifying a Rydel football helmet to wear as I honestly think that would help the players as a football helmet is much better padded then a traditional hockey helmet.

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@Dynamo 47

Did you play in a local league. I was in some house leagues that were a little more physical than others. I can say that while playing in HNA I experianced a broken foot (slap shot block), cracked ribs (missed a hit), and now have what I believe to be arthritis in my wrist (I refuse to go to the doctor and ask if I have athritis at 34).

I was lucky to not have any concussions from ice hockey; however, I did suffer two in my life. One when I was really little and tried playing the Greatest American Hero off the top of a sliding board, another when I was in my early 20's also from falling from about 6' on my noggin.

I am glad that people are starting to recognize the impact that these injuries have long term.

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this explains a lot dynamo!!! ;) i kid... i kid. sorry to hear about your continued problems. i had a mild concussion this past summer. who knows how many i might have had as a kid, tackle football with no gear every weekend probably left my head like that watermelon.

anyway, i had some of the symptoms that you have mentioned here. albeit, probably a lot more mild than yours, the one very striking thing to me was also the personality changes. that's what was most disturbing to me. i just didn't feel like myself... and, in short, it was really bumming me out. inability to focus, headaches and irritability were pervasive for a few months. i'm still having 'off' days, but my symptoms have pretty much subsided 6 months after impact.

suffice it to say... it's a truly awful feeling that i wouldn't wish on anyone. i hope your symptoms fade away. i also hope prongs can have his wear off, but it doesn't seem likely... sadly.

people wonder why these guys make so much money to play a game. well, they're very often sacrificing their quality of life later in life. some might say that you couldn't pay them enough to take that deal.

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Hey Dynamo, you posted this exact message about 3 weeks ago ...

...sorry, I had to.

Anyway, your story is not far from the reality of how it was for many players back then. No one questioned it and just kept playing. Even though you were not paid it's still very similar to fringe guys who simply don't want to be replaced by another guy and potentially lose a spot on the team unlike a guy like Crosby that doesn't have to worry about anything.

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I stopped playing after 33 years, for certain had one in the 1980's

3 years ago I suffered a concussion while being T-boned at a light by an out of control van

My car was hit in front of the drivers side pillar and I was sort of whiplashed back sideways as my Forester was driven into a Big Suv on the right and bounced back

I was examined by my ortho doc who was an at game doc for minor pro and later by a pro teams head trauma specialist

It took 3-4 weeks to stop feeling light sensitivity, like cotton was stuffed into my head and to sort of feel normal

I worked in the office for about 2-3 weeks with difficulty and it took a while for me to be able to drive again without fear

This stuff is serious and I think even hitting some hard bumps in an uncushioned sear makes me feel weird in the head and neck a few years later.

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Thanks Dynamo for sharing, you definitely have gone through rough stuff!

Some 12 years ago, I was playing hockey in Finland and my team was playing against a bitter rival. They had an insane defenseman with whom I had a lot of quarrels during every game we had played against. In that game we exchanged words couple of times and I am quite good using words to disturb other players and enjoy doing it.

Anyway, the game was tight and we were in the attacking zone. I didn't have a puck and I was looking for a scoring place around the net. I found a good scoring place and a free passing lane for the puck carrier, I saw him glance at me and then boom! Someone hit me and I lost my consciousness immediately. We had a male nurse playing in the team and he woke me up (still don't remember any of it). They ordered an ambulance and because the game was in the middle of nowhere, it took about 20 mins from the ambulance to get there and about an hour to go to hospital. When I "woke up" and I mean I started to realize my surroundings, the ambulance was 10 mins from the hospital. I was wondering what the h... has happened, I thought I was living yesterday and didn't have any recollection of the day at all. I was wondering, "hmm I have hockey equipment on and I am laying in the ambulance, but the game was supposed to be tomorrow. Now, there are couple of pieces missing in this puzzle", I started talking to the ambulance nurse and he told me what had happened.

I was taken to the hospital, but they only x-rayed my head and neck to find fractures. After that they send me home. I was feeling really different, had bad headaches and nothing could ease them. Then my dad was having a 60- year birthday party a month later and the nurse from our team (he was working in a neurologist "department") came there as well. He asked me how I had been feeling and when I told, he "ordered" me to come to hospital the first thing next morning.

I went to the hospital the next morning and they took me to the neurologist "department" right away. I spent there couple of days in different kinds of brain tests. Diagnose was that I had a severe concussion. The next 3 months (so total of 4 months) I had continuing headaches and nothing helped to ease them. Then they started to fade away slowly. First the headaches started to be more mild, then I had some days without any headaches, then I only had them after doing something physically demanding and then after a year I didn't have any effects of the incident anymore. But it took me one whole year not to feel any effect of it and I know it was my first, and only (so far), concussion. But still after 12 years I have problems with my neck, because of the hit.

My friends have told me the insane defenseman had gathered a lot of speed and hit me even though I didn't have a puck and while I was watching the other direction. I suppose I got him all riled up with words and he decided to make me pay. He got sent out of the game. After the incident I ended my "career" in hockey. I continued playing hockey, but in much lower level leagues.

So if one concussion can be that bad, then I don't even want to imagine how bad it feels after several concussions. I have been lucky to have only one concussion as my personality came back to normal after a year from the hit, but I can imagine after several concussions it might change permanently and I think that is definitely the worst part of everything relating in concussions.

Edited by eurofly
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