Tag: concussion issues

Michael Sauer

Michael Sauer still isn’t over his concussion symptoms

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Michael Sauer was put out of commission with a concussion this past season in December thanks to a big hit from Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf. Sauer missed the remainder of the season with the head injury.

The bad news? He’s still feeling the effects of it now as Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports. Brooks says the Rangers aren’t optimistic about Sauer being ready for the season whether it starts on time or not.

If Sauer, said to be feeling better than he was before returning home to Minnesota for the summer but is not believed symptom-free, cannot play, he would be placed on the long-term injury list.

The good news is he’s feeling better, so that’s a start. The bad news is he’s still feeling the effects of that monster hit from nine months ago.

Sauer’s brother Kurt, formerly of the Phoenix Coyotes, has also struggled with concussion issues for the past few years. Brooks mentions their brother Craig is a former NFL player who had his career end because of, you guessed it, concussion problems. Coincidence or not that’s pretty freaky.

Nathan Horton will miss entire 2012 playoffs with concussion

Nathan Horton

The news was already grim for Bruins forward Nathan Horton when it came to whether or not he’d play in the postseason as early inclinations said he’d be a “long shot” to find his way into any games.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli ended all the speculation and announced Horton will not play at all during the 2012 playoffs. Horton has been out since late January with a concussion suffered against the Flyers when Tom Sestito caught him in the head with a hit. Sestito was not punished for the play.

Horton’s concussion history has been high-profile in Boston as the hit he suffered at the hands of Vancouver’s Aaron Rome during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals knocked him out for the rest of the series. After seeing Horton return to action at the start of this season, many wondered if Horton was fully recovered as the hit from Rome was a crushing blow.

The Bruins have been doing well without Horton of late but keeping that going through the postseason and trying to repeat as Cup champions is going to be a lot harder to do without him as Horton was one of Boston’s more clutch performers last season.

Peter Mueller’s recovery from concussion issues remains a mystery

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Immediately after Peter Mueller was traded from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Colorado Avalanche for Wojtek Wolski, it seemed like the change of scenery would create a happy ending for everyone involved.

Mueller finally showed why he was the eighth overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by scoring 20 points in his 15 games with the Avs, helping them make a surprising run to the playoffs in 2010. Wolski was impressive in his own right, scoring 18 points in 18 games to help the Coyotes clinch a postseason berth in 2009-10 as well.

Sadly enough, it seems like rushing to a positive judgment proved to be hasty in both cases. Wolski’s problems seem a bit more self-inflicted; he quickly wore out his welcome with Phoenix until he was shipped to the New York Rangers, a team that already seems tired of him.

Mueller’s issues seem like they’re tinged with a bit more bad luck. A hard check by Rob Blake ended his breakthrough run before the 2009-10 season and another concussion late in the 2010-11 preseason kept him from playing a single game last season. The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater reports that September will mark a sad anniversary for Mueller and the Avs as the last time a media member had a chance to speak with the talented but injury-troubled forward.

Right now, the company line continues to be that Mueller is expected to be ready for training camp in September.

So, can I or anyone else in the hockey media talk to Mueller then, assuming he’s healthy? Well, no, is the answer still. Does that mean, then, that Mueller still has concussion problems and hasn’t been medically cleared yet? The Avs don’t really have an answer for that right now. All they’ll say is “He’ll be at camp” and “things are looking good.”

Yes, we could phone Mueller anytime and ask how he’s doing. But keep one thing in mind: players on the Avs do not want to upset the people who sign their big paychecks, and one thing that really makes the Avs upset is when players, under orders not to talk to the media until they’ve been medically cleared, talk to the media before then. Most injured players are scared to even make eye contact with a reporter because of that team rule.

So, essentially we just have to keep waiting for when the team says Mueller is fully good to go again. But, again, they are on record as saying they think he’ll be at camp in uniform.

Let’s hope that Mueller’s path resembles that of Patrice Bergeron or Pierre-Marc Bouchard (two players who suffered from recurring problems but ultimately got their careers back on track) rather than someone like Marc Savard. His all-too-brief resurgence with Colorado was a great story. Seeing him do it again – and this time, for multiple seasons rather than several games – would generate an even better narrative.

(H/T to Puck Daddy.)

Smyth trade to Edmonton not done, Kings GM “I don’t think we’re closer”

Nashville Predators v Los Angeles Kings

The on-again, off-again deal that would send Ryan Smyth back to the Edmonton Oilers is (for the moment) off according to Kings general manager Dean Lombardi. The deal that was originally reported by TSN at the beginning of the first round at the 2011 Entry Draft on Friday would not be confirmed by the Oilers, nor the Kings.

Now we know why.

Apparently the major piece in the deal from the Kings’ point of view was not Gilbert Brule, but the cap space they’d save from buying Brule’s contract out as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles. Even though the Oilers have insisted that Brule has already been cleared to play, the Kings feel that certain assurances have not been made within the context of the trade. TSN’s Darren Dreger has the story:

“Sources say the Kings were willing to accept Brule as part of the deal with the intent of buying him out, however the collective bargaining agreement forbids teams from buying out an injured player.

Long after the conclusion of first round of the Entry Draft on Friday night, representatives from Los Angeles, Edmonton and the NHL engaged in a group discussion in an attempt to salvage the trade, but were unsuccessful.”

Clearly, this poses a significant problem for both sides. At this point, the Kings will continue to trade Smyth to a team somewhere closer to his home. Rumors before the announced trade had the Kings sending Smyth possibility to the Calgary Flames. Since the deal (as currently constructed) with the Oilers has fallen apart, Lombardi has already given a call to Flames GM Jay Feaster to rekindle talks with Edmonton’s rivals.

Even though the Kings are in the difficult position of being forced to trade one of their best wingers, Lombardi has insisted that any deal will have to work for both sides. Without the flexibility of a possibility of a possible Brule buyout, the Kings GM has stated the trade doesn’t make sense:

“To me, it was kind of simple, but it’s, OK, if something has to come back (to the Kings) to make this work, then there has to be certain things in place to allow me to run my (salary) cap. If they’re not in place, then this makes no sense. Because I have to replace this player. That’s the only urgency for me. I have to replace him. In order to replace him, whatever I’m taking back has to allow me full freedom to keep that (cap) space available. If that is not there, I can’t do this deal. And those conditions were not there. So there’s no deal.

“It makes no sense for me to lose this player and lose the flexibility. I need to replace him. That’s where it broke down. When it was clear that I couldn’t do what I needed to do with that player I’m taking back, then it’s not what the deal was based on, in any stretch of the imagination, and it certainly doesn’t make any sense for me.”

The Kings are to the point that they’ve all but guaranteed they’ll trade Smyth. Now we’re just waiting to find out where he’s going, when it’s going to happen, and who’s coming to southern California. Obviously there’s plenty more to this story and we’ll keep you updated as the soap opera continues to unfold.

Coyotes’ Kurt Sauer still dealing with concussion effects from 2009 injury

Kurt Sauer

Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Kurt Sauer is a guy we haven’t heard from much in the last couple of seasons. Last year, Sauer played in just one game last season on October 3, 2009 against Los Angeles. In that game, Sauer suffered a neck injury that translated into a concussion.

Sauer hasn’t played another game since then and while many fans can get impatient waiting and hoping for their favorite player to get back from a concussion (as is the case with Sidney Crosby, Mike Green, and David Perron), as we’re finding out getting healthy from a brain injury like that is of vital importance.

As we learned from the sad tale of former Red Wings and Blackhawks enforcer Bob Probert, concussions take their toll over time as Probert was discovered to have CTE, a degenerative brain disease. While Sauer is out with a concussion of his own, we’re finding out that the recovery from such an injury can be debilitating, frustrating, and disheartening. Sarah McLellan of The Arizona Republic caught up with Sauer to see how he’s doing and his story is a must-read for anyone trying to get an idea of how tough it can be to bounce back from a concussion. This excerpt deals with how he handled things in 2009 after being injured.

He worked on his conditioning in practice, but one day he did a figure 8 and never stopped spinning. He started doing balance therapy and worked at it until the All-Star break. When he returned from a five-day hiatus, he wore an extremely loose helmet. After a brief workout, Sauer felt dizzy, and all of a sudden his helmet was hugging his skull.

That was the last time he trained on the ice.

Since then, Sauer continued therapy for a 16-week period to no avail. He’s seen doctors specializing in the neck, spine and brain, and no one has a clear diagnosis.

“It’s a peculiar set of symptoms,” Sauer said. “It doesn’t fit into one category.”

When he wakes up at 6:30, it takes him an hour and a half to get out of bed. A headache persists for most of the day, and his eyes hurt and ears ring. The right side of his neck aches, as does his right shoulder. If he deals cards, his right hand turns a shade of purple, almost green, and his veins bulge. If something startles him, he feels nauseous. Whenever he helps out at Kohl’s hockey practice, he leaves the ice feeling sick. He needs a nap after trying to teach Kade how to ride a bike.

McLellan’s look into what Sauer’s life is all about now as the symptoms and ailments that still linger is both touching and sad. While he gets to be the house dad to his four children (Kade, Kohl, Kasen, and Kruz) his inability to even be a fully functional and fun-loving dad is hindered by the lingering effects of his injury as he’s unable to sit through a full hockey practice or teach them how to ride a bike without feeling nauseous or needing a nap.

Stories like this from Sauer should be the sort of thing the NHL and NHLPA take a closer look at as it’s an example of just how bad things can be for what was always treated as a minor injury. While Major League Baseball has gone the proactive route instituting a trial seven-day disabled list for those with concussion symptoms, the NHL (and NFL likewise) are more high-contact sports where physicality is part of the nature of the beast. Sauer’s story as well as the long recovery time for other stars like David Perron and Sidney Crosby should be all the proof the NHL needs to know they need to be more vigilant in protecting the players in one way or another.

Stories like Sauer’s should be used as a prime example of why things must be improved and while things are moving in the right direction thanks to what happened to Crosby, it shouldn’t take a superstar’s absence to get the wheels spinning faster in the right direction for player safety.