One of the concerns those in the NHL must have had when they began this lockout of theirs is that the game’s very good young talent would go overseas and get hurt. And while a few guys have picked up injuries here and there that might have worried their teams (Rick Nash and his shoulder being the most notable of these incidents), none were of particular concern.
Until late last week.
That’s when Claude Giroux, playing for got hit in the head by some no-name player — literally, no one seems particularly sure of the guilty party — on a team called Krefeld Pinguine (of COURSE it’s the Penguins), and sustained something that we were told, at the time, was a very minor injury. Minor minor minor minor. “Stretched out his neck a bit.” No penalty on the play, though there’s no video of the hit online and apparently his team isn’t too happy about the lack of a call or disciplinary action for the guilty party. Maybe that’s to be expected, though, since Giroux had 19 points in nine games.
But given the assurances that there was nothing to see here, there was some optimism that the hit, and the resulting injury, couldn’t have been THAT bad. He missed Sunday’s game against Kölner Haie, but that was more of a precaution than anything. He was scheduled to return to practice yesterday.
Except he didn’t. Instead, he hopped on a plane back to North America to meet with some doctors in Atlanta.
Precautionary tests, they told us. And now The C Word floating around Flyers fan communities and Twitter is the same one that you’d have thought it would be. Concussion. You’ll remember, and I’m sure it’s just some crazy coincidence, that Sid Crosby also went to Atlanta to visit with concussion specialists when he was still working on his comeback.
It seems the tests in Germany, which included CAT scans, were very inconclusive and Giroux still doesn’t feel very good, thus the trip back across the Atlantic, which tells us two things. First, he fears the worst, or at least acknowledges that the symptoms here are too similar to what he experienced before — remember, he recovered from a concussion of his own in the run-up to the Winter Classic last season, though it only caused him to miss four games — to go around trying to play through it. Second, his team feels the same way, which probably isn’t a good sign.
To be fair, Giroux is playing down any concerns you or anyone else might have about the situation. He told Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia, “I’m fine, I’m just making sure that I am 100 percent.” But on the other hand, you don’t let someone you believe to have a minor neck injury board a plane for an eight-ish hour flight unless it’s the realest deal.
Here’s the reason I’d be concerned about all this though: James Reimer. Brian Gionta pretty well ran him over one night, gave him a concussion that was originally called something along the lines of whiplash, which doesn’t sound dissimilar to stretching one’s neck a bit. But it turned out that play messed up Reimer’s game so badly that his mom was legitimately worried about his future not only in hockey, but in life. Obviously this situation with Giroux is a little different given that Giroux has a somewhat limited history of head injuries and Reimer has a rather extensive one, but let’s not forget that Reimer also claims a neck injury — not a concussion, everybody! — ended his season last year. This is stuff you really, really don’t want to fool around with.
Not that this is the kind of thing you’re hoping for in any way, but imagine the flaming hell Ed Snider will rain down on Gary Bettman if this lockout costs him Claude Giroux, one of the best players in the sport and the face of a very good and marketable franchise, for any amount of time, and to a concussion at that. Cost of doing business, to some extent, sure; they had to know that players, even the ones who suffered concussions in the last 12 months would head overseas to ply their trade. But like identity theft, you never think it’ll happen to you. Then it does, and you are understandably pissed. Not that I think Claude Giroux suffering a neck-injury-but-maybe-a-concussion will in any way move the needle on the lockout and make Gary Bettman and Don Fehr start hugging and crying, but y’know.
It’s important to remember that any concussion you suffer increases your chances of suffering more of them in the future, and even those that don’t seem that bad initially can cause some very real trouble for a very long time. Crosby’s first one, for instance, was originally considered minor. This is some very scary stuff, and you wonder just how good the care Giroux received in Europe was. I understand concussions are a tricky thing for even experienced medical professionals to handle, but everyone in the greater Philadelphia area should be very, very scared right now.