Post-Concussion Syndrome and Hockey

marie-Chantal LeblancContributor IMay 4, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 12: Keith Primeau waves as he is honored by the Philadelphia Flyers prior to their game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Wachovia Center February 12, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


              Fans screaming and cheering, money, fame, celebrity parties, hockey players seem to have it all. Alas, lest us not forget, broken bones, stitches, dislocated body parts and head injuries. Some players cannot remember what happened before hitting their head and for instances cannot dial a phone afterwards, due to concussions. Some are forced to retire because they are putting their life on the line if they play an other shift. In some cases, concussions can heal in a short period of time. However in other cases, the recovery process takes longer. During the 2007-2008 season, 59 National Hockey League players were put on the injured list due to concussions. Today, the life of retired hockey players is deeply affected by PCS, post-concussion syndrome. They can be affected by these following symptoms; headaches and dizziness, mood swings and depression and memory lost.


A concussion usually does not have long term damage. However, sometimes, some parts of the brain stops functioning naturally for some time but go back to normal after a while. Nevertheless, in some cases, the brain does not fully recover and the individual is diagnosed with PCS, post-concussion syndrome. Many hockey players including Pat LaFontaine, Scott Stevens, Eric and Brett Lindros, Michel Goulet, Brian Bradly, Nick Kypreos, Adam Deadmarsh, Jeff Beukeboom, Matthew Barnaby, Paul Comrie and Keith Primeau, are suffering from PCS.  The person or athlete who is diagnosed with PCS may have headaches which feel like tension to their head or a migraine. The players who sustain concussions may feel dizziness which is also one of the various symptoms. In 2002, ex-Edmonton Oiler, Paul Comrie announced his retirement at the young age of 24. It was caused by a concussion he had sustained 19 months earlier. Comrie said to CBC sports “I still get dizziness and headaches and there just came a point in time where I think I had to listen to the doctor's advice,” Keith Primeau, who also retired due to post-concussion syndrome, says “They just don't know the long-term ramifications of head injuries.” The 38 year old, father of four chose to donate his brain to medical research after his death. When receiving a concussion and these two symptoms appear it is recommended to immediately check with a doctor. Painkillers can help make the pain vanish or reduce the pain temporarily. Be very cautious with the painkillers, overdosing may increase pain.

         Some individuals diagnosed with PCS may experience much worst symptoms then others. For instance; mood swings and depression. People who have PCS may say and think they are bad wives, mothers, fathers kids etc... Others can have trouble understanding people speak. Professionals might tell PCS victims to take note books, calendars, agendas etc... with them, when leaving the house. Forgetting important things may cause the person to have depression. Others with PCS, including ex-NHLer Keith Primeau, realizes that they will never be their selves again. Primeau said during an interview, “I know I'll never be 100 per cent again. I know that time doesn't heal this. In my case, It's inevitable,”. The intimidating and big presence on the ice guy, recognize the damage he has done to his brain. “... I recognize the damage I've done to my brain. I force myself to get up every morning, force myself to deal with everyday life.” Coach to four hockey teams, including his sons', is also fighting depression and mood swings. The retired man also said during the interview, “If I'm going trough a mood swing, they ask me if my head is bothering me,” he said, “Otherwise, they know I don't play because of post-concussion syndrome.” Primeau also stated that they don't let it take control of their lives.  Depression and mood swings can be treated like headaches and dizziness. Nevertheless, one other method of treatment could help a PCS situation, therapy. It can make a PCS recovery faster and with less pain.


                 When hockey players experience a hit to the head during a game, it is not uncommon to notice that they seem lost, having no clue where they are and when and why they got there. In most concussion and post-concussion syndrome cases, the victim may not remember what occurred prior, during and/or after the injury. That memory lost and confusion may last a couple of seconds, minutes or, in rare cases, a couple of days and weeks. Nick Kypreos, ex-Toronto Maple Leaf, talking about the incident that happened during his last National Hockey League game said, “It's like a dream you can't remember. Within one hour everything came to focus. That hit to the head cost him the rest of his career. Today, Kypreos works as a hockey analyst on Roger Sportsnet's hockeycentral panel and on Hockeycentral @ noon on the Fan590. The memory, itself, is extremely important. Without memory, it is probable that life would not exist. There are three different kinds of memory; short-term, long-term and skills memory. When receiving an injury to the head, all three may be affected for a while or a short period of time. To help remember things, the victim may keep a diary or make notes of the events, appointments etc... Memory lost may also be treated with therapy, just like mood swings and depression.



Bruised ribs, missing teeth and bloody noses, maybe hockey players are not living much of a great life. Yes people recognizing them on the streets, no-budgets and playing the game they love and always dreamed of, is a great life style, but lest we not forget the next time they step on the ice, could be their last.