Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Wild’s Bouchard (concussion) back practicing with AHL Houston

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Positive sign for Minnesota this week as Pierre-Marc Bouchard resumed practicing after missing extensive time with a concussion.

But given his lengthy history with those types of injuries, it’s not surprising to hear team brass is preaching patience and caution regarding his latest comeback.

The 28-year-old forward returned to the ice with AHL Houston, his first action since missing the final 41 games of last year due to a concussion suffered on this hit from Winnipeg’s Zach Bogosian:

It was the latest in a long line of concussion issues for Bouchard, who missed 112 of 113 games over a span from March 2009 to December 2010.

So, easy to understand why Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher is taking things slowly this time around.

“We’re trying to see if he can take the next step and get used to some contact again,” Fletcher told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “He’s not where we need him to get, but hopefully he can make progress.”

Getting Bouchard healthy and into the lineup would be a huge boon for the Wild. He’s a gifted offensive player — despite all the injuries, he’s racked up 60 points in his last 96 games — and provides playmaking skill.

That said, it’s unlikely Minnesota is counting on him for the upcoming campaign.

He wasn’t cleared for contact in October — meaning he’s still collecting salary on his five-year, $20.4 million deal — and, as the Star-Tribune suggests, he likely wouldn’t be able to participate in training camp if the season was to begin soon.

Study finds there is “significant underreporting” of concussions in hockey

Sidney Crosby
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A year-long report released on Friday that centered around men’s and women’s college hockey teams in Canada and the United States says coaches would rather have players with possible head injuries to keep playing rather than get them out of the game and checked out.

Alan Maki of The Globe And Mail hears from the lead scientist on the study, Dr. Paul Echlin, about the results they’ve seen through testing Canadian university players. 

“We did a previous study [one year ago] with the CIS without observers,” Echlin said. “We didn’t do MRI imaging and there was only one reported concussion for that season. This past season, we were full on with multiple physicians at games, home and away, and we did imaging. It really demonstrates the underreporting of medical concussions.”

We’ve seen it happen numerous times in the past where a player gets hit hard and appears to suffer issues with staying cognizant only to continue playing in the game. While the NHL has new concussion protocols, the study finds coaches at lower levels aren’t taking the same kind of care.

One coach quoted in Jeff Z. Klein’s piece on this for the New York Times saying, “Unless something is broken, I want them back out playing.”

If this kind of thinking is going to change to help players stay healthy, it’s going to take a lot of change to how people perceive concussions.

Report: Sabres prospect Armia suffers possible concussion in Finnish league

Joel Armia

It appears another Buffalo Sabre has been hurt while playing overseas.

This time, it’s Joel Armia — taken 16th overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft — who reportedly suffered a concussion while playing in Finland’s SM-liiga for Porin Assat.

The news was reported on the Assat website and by Goran Stubb, the NHL’s Director of European Scouting.

Armia’s injury occurred during Saturday’s game against JYP Jyvaskyla, and came just weeks after Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis returned to his Swiss team after missing seven games with a mystery injury.

Armia, 19, was off to a solid start with Assat this season, scoring 9G-4A-13PTS in his first 22 games.

This past summer, he was part of the Sabres prospect camp along with 2012 first round picks Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons — the trio actually skated together on a line that had Buffalo fans excited for the future.

Toews admits he played with concussion symptoms

toewsfaceoff
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Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews maintains he was symptom-free and “felt 100 percent” when he returned to Chicago’s line-up for the playoffs after sitting out two months with a concussion.

Except now he admits he wasn’t 100 percent.

“Even if you don’t feel something and you think you’re symptom-free, there’s probably still something there that’s kind of hindering you and affecting the way your brain works,” Toews told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday. “It was just a lot of eye-movement things. My eyes didn’t track very well. They didn’t look from one target to the next very well. My balance with my eyes closed and my head turned a certain way was terrible. (There were) little things that I would think were normal because I didn’t feel something in my head.”

Toews spent last week in Atlanta at a chiropractic neurology facility where he says his problems were solved once and for all; however, the fact he played with symptoms (even if he didn’t know they were symptoms) won’t help the reputation of a Blackhawks organization that’s already faced questions about its concussion protocol.

In February, it was reported that Toews may have hidden his symptoms from the Blackhawks soon after he sustained the injury. And even in today’s concussion-sensitive era, players are going to do that.

But when Toews says, “My balance with my eyes closed and my head turned a certain way was terrible,” we can’t help but wonder if Chicago’s medical staff should have been able to identify that.

It always did seem a little curious that Toews was cleared to play just in time for the first game of the postseason.

Eaves continues to struggle with concussion symptoms

Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller
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Patrick Eaves told Mlive.com’s Ansar Khan that he’s still having “good days and bad days” almost a year after suffering a concussion (and broken jaw) while blocking a shot.

Although he seems to be doing OK skating here and there, he told Khan that he wouldn’t be ready for training camp if it was coming up this month.

“It’s hard to gauge out here, it’s summer hockey, two-on-two,” Eaves said. “I don’t feel close to where I was quite yet.”

In the mean time, he’s reportedly seeing a specialist at the University of Michigan and – one bright side – continues to collect checks from the Detroit Red Wings. He’s the only player on the roster who’s still being treated and able to see the team because of injury reasons.

Still, it’s likely he’d prefer the headaches to subside, although at least his jaw is reportedly fully healed.