October 14, 2011
When the NHL's concussion protocol has come under fire, it's typically because some see it as too lenient or ineffective; as Cam Cole wrote last season, "it isn't foolproof because no two brains are alike, and no two brain injuries, either."
Rarely, if ever, has the protocol been criticized by a current NHL player for being too overbearing; as if the testing and re-testing of players for symptoms after a concussion force able-bodied players to stay off the ice.
Brooks Laich(notes) of the Washington Capitals, however, went there on Friday morning. When asked about potential head injuries for teammate Jay Beagle(notes) after getting KO'd by Arron Asham(notes) of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Laich said the following (via Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington):
"I really don't care about that awareness crap," Laich said. "To be honest, I'm sick of hearing all this talk about concussions and about the quiet room.
"This is what we love to do. Guys love to play, they love to compete, they want to be on the ice. How do you take that away from someone? We accept that there's going to be dangers when we play this game. We know that every time we get dressed.
"I don't know, sometimes it just feels like we're being babysat a little too much. We're grown men and we should have a say in what we want to do."
There are two issues here: Brain injuries and the treatment of brain injuries. You'd hope Laich has an appreciation for the potential devastation of the former, considering the time teammates current (Mike Green(notes)) and former (Brian Pothier(notes)) missed due to concussions.
As for the treatment of brain injuries … well, no NHL player has come out and called concussion awareness "crap," declaring that the system babysits them. But others have, in more subtle ways, questioned the validity of the concussion protocol before.
Last season, Jason Pominville(notes) was out of the lineup for the Buffalo Sabres with a concussion. He felt as if he had recovered from the injury, but failed his neuropsych test. One theory from Pominville and the Sabres: He aced his initial baseline test and simply couldn't match that score.
Which is to say that Laich, the Capitals' NHLPA rep, probably isn't alone in his feelings about the protocol. Players want to play. Whether it's a concussion or knee injury, they want back on the ice and it's a push-pull with physicians who suggest they're not ready.
There are going to be players who feel they've been anchored by an overprotective system; thing is, there are going to be even more players who are saved from further, catastrophic injuries because of a concussion diagnosis and treatment.
It's not a perfect system, which is what Laich was probably trying to say in a short-fused way; but hockey's better for it.