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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hockey should protect players better

Boxing is a sports where two athletes try to knock each other unconscious to win. But after Tuesday's Game 3 of the Red Wings/Blue Jackets series, I think that hockey is behind boxing in protecting its athletes.

Why was R.J. Umberger allowed back in the game after being knocked loopy (that's a medical term, honest) by a Brad Stuart hit? You could have counted Umberger out by boxing rules. There's no way he could have been on his feet and able to defend himself within a 10-count. I'm not a doctor, but it sure looked like the literal impact on his brain should have been cause enough to remove him from the game as a medical precaution.

In boxing, you can't continue if you're counted out. Heck, they won't let a boxer continue if the official judges him to be not ready to compete.

So why let Umberger back on the ice after he couldn't stand on his own right after the hit?

I know that hockey has a long tradition of gutting out injuries. I grew up hearing about the Bobby Baun broken ankle goal in the playoffs and how wonderful he was for playing through the pain. I still love that story even though it cost the Red Wings.

But in this day and age, we should be enlightened enough to realize that brain trauma isn't a broken bone or cut or displaced tooth. We should know that the effects of brain trauma compound quickly.

It's a wonderful story that Umberger came back and scored the Blue Jackets' goal one period later. And I was very glad to see that he regained his form so quickly. Reports today from Columbus say that Umberger is feeling fine.

It would have been a better story, however, if he wasn't exposed to another possible blow to the head the same night that he was knocked silly.


Blogger hoeker said...

Completely agreed.

It's Umberger's brain, so by rights it should be his choice. But after a hit like that, if there is a problem, he's not okay to make that choice anyway. And if someone has a wife, or kids, or even friends and family that they like being with, it's not the right choice to play through a possible concussion. Hockey's fun and it's cool to be tough, but if someone makes that choice, it's because their priorities are out of whack or someone hasn't done enough to inform the players of the risks.

April 22, 2009 at 10:05 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post, Bruce.

I truly get nervous every time something like that happens. I think you're right on about the brain being in a class of it's own, as far as playing through injuries is concerned.

Brain trauma is funny, and the definition of concussion varies from doc to doc, with people around hockey being very hesitant to diagnose them. By family practice standards, the dizziness and disorientation Umberger felt last night is a pretty sure concussion; you're right--no way he should have returned. Right again, in that a second hit like that could have had nasty consequences.

Anyway, thanks for shedding some light on this topic.

April 22, 2009 at 10:45 PM 
Blogger John said...

After learning about how Lilja doesn't so much have a concussion (or "Brain Bruise") as a lacerated vein inside the skull it brings to light how little many in the sports medicine business really educate themselves on head injuries. I spent a lot of time getting tests done on my "concussion." They never found any bruising, which shows up on CAT scans. But they never checked for bleeding later. I am still not the same person I was before the injury and it still hurts there from time to time after only 12 years. If there isn't any damage, you can go right back in, but like the Lions draft chances, it's a crapshoot. Going back in could be harmless, or it could be the last shift you ever take.

April 23, 2009 at 1:41 PM 
Anonymous Little Earl said...

Life is short, don't be such a pantywaste. We have enough foo-foo games, like basketball and tennis...let us at least keep a couple of true sports. Men get hurt, but they know the risks. People like you have no guts, quit trying to impose your sissy worries on men who do. Let them worry about themselves, nobody needs you or your motherly over-reactions.

April 27, 2009 at 5:25 AM 
Blogger Bruce MacLeod said...

Pantywaste. Love it. Is that what the kids are saying nowadays?

April 27, 2009 at 7:09 PM 

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