Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on Dec. 9 — one of the multiple head injuries he’s suffered during his eight-year career — and, on Monday, told reporters this might be the one that ends his career.
“I’m not ready to make that decision right now,” Ballard said, per the Wild website. “I’ll make it if I get to that point, but I might not have to make it depending on how long these symptoms last.
“I definitely think about it, yeah.”
Ballard, 32, suffered the concussion and three facial fractures on this hit from the Islanders’ Matt Martin:
Prior to this, Ballard suffered serious concussion symptoms while a member of the Vancouver Canucks during the 2011-12 campaign. Per the National Post, the veteran rearguard would sleep “as many as 18 hours a day,” and “when he tried to do light exercise, he would get nauseous and go right back to bed. For days.”
Ballard was also shaken up — though he said he didn’t suffer a concussion — during last spring’s playoffs, on a hit from then-Chicago forward Brandon Bollig:
The cumulative effect of all these head injuries has Ballard worried about his future both on and off the ice. He’s previously stressed the importance of fatherhood and the ability to be there for his children once his playing days are over.
“That’s still more important to me than playing hockey,” Ballard said of being a dad. “But I’m not going to make that decision right now. I’m going to let this play out and see how I feel, and hopefully things clear up and I can get back and play.
“If it’s a choice between trying to stick it out and play — and maybe say you’re feeling well when you’re not — or getting hit again and just deciding it’s time to be done, it’s a decision for down the road. But it’s something I’m definitely going to think about.”