The Hit on Zach Parise leads to a look at Concussions

USA TODAY Sports

You all thought I was gonna make it through the season without talking about it

Last night in Chicago, this happened:


So, Parise gets knocked down pretty good, to where he had to be helped off the ice and left the ice for a short time, presumably for assessment and to get his bearings back.   He did later return to the game; those of you who know me, know how I feel about this.   Parise did not appear to lose consciousness following the hit from Bollig, but he had this to say: I was shaken up a little bit.  Saw some starts for a second...it's tough for me to say (whether the hit was clean).  I know that I got hit in the head pretty good, but I haven't seen any replay.  I feel ok.  A little headache." (Thank you @chadgraff)

I'm not going to weigh in on whether the hit was clean or dirty, legal or illegal.  There's already a post up for that.   But let's take a look at what this means for Parise.   First, there is no unified concussion protocol amongst the NHL; it's determined by the teams.  The only consistency I've seen is that they are no longer assessing for concussions on the bench and are removing players to a quieter area to do so.

Current best practice (read evidence based) concussion guidelines are to remove a player who is suspected of a concussion from play or practice.   It's done for the safety of the athlete as well as if they are removed from play sooner, they often can return to play sooner.   Return to play has always been individualized and should always be based on symptoms.   Symptom free means return to play.

And now to mix it up, so I don't write the same article every season, I'm going to take a look at myths on concussions:

Hitting your head is the only way to get a concussion:

Actually, any hit to the body that causes your brain to move rapidly within its spinal fluid cushion (i.e. whiplash) can cause a concussion.

You have to lose consciousness to have a concussion:

If I had a dollar for every time I've been told this....   Only about 10% of concussions result in a loss of consciousness.

The harder you're hit, the worse the concussion:

This isn't true.   Researchers aren't sure why but you can have severe symptoms from a mild bump to the head and mild symptoms from a hard blow.   It's a very variable experience.

All concussions produce the same symptoms:

There are common symptoms like headache, amnesia and confusion that occur in most concussions, but there are a myriad of symptoms including clumsiness, sluggishness, irritability, sleep disorders, and taste and smell disorders.

Everyone recovers from a concussion at the same rate:

Also, no.   There are so many factors that go into recovery, like physical and mental health as well as how bad the concussion was not to mention age and gender.  Concussions are individual.

Helmets and mouthguards prevent concussions:

Helmets prevent skull fracture.  Mouthguards prevent dental injuries.  Neither prevents your brain from moving inside your skull.

It's safe to resume regular activities right after a concussion:

Yeah, no.  Your brain is already in a weakened state.  Adding a ton of stimuli to it weakens it further and prevents healing.   Sports practice or competition shouldn't even be considered because another blow to the head could be severely detrimental to the brain.

Athletes will report concussion symptoms:

Research shows that younger athletes don't understand what constitutes concussion symptoms, and athletes of all ages are unwilling to sit on the bench.

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