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McKenzie: The hard truth is you can't cheat a concussion

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Bob McKenzie
12/20/2011 5:58:10 PM
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It should come as no surprise that Toronto's Colby Armstrong initially tried to conceal his concussion from the Maple Leafs because no player in today's NHL wants to be concussed. They're afraid, afraid of how they feel and fearful for the consequences of not being able to play, maybe of even losing their job. They sometimes think if they ignore the symptoms and not admit to having a concussion, then they won't have one.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.

Because here's the cold, hard truth: you cannot cheat a concussion.

If you're concussed, you can't play through it. Oh, you can try, but chances are, as was the case with Armstrong, the symptoms eventually prevent you from even attempting to play. And if the symptoms are not that severe, chances are you are still either going to play at far less than your best or you're going to worsen the concussion and be out a long, long time.

In the wake of Sidney Crosby's concussion, it would seem more players are taking the prudent approach and erring on the side of caution on return to play protocols. But we're kidding ourselves if we think players don't try to conceal concussion-related symptoms, especially in-game and in the heat of battle.

Part of the problem is that concussed players can and do pass baseline and impact testing, suggesting to them and perhaps their club that they're fit to play. But the best and most reliable test is the player knowing himself whether he's symptomatic or feeling not quite right.

If you think this is an issue in the NHL, consider how much more prevalent it is in the American Hockey League or ECHL or junior or college hockey, where a spot in the lineup is even more precarious. It happens. A lot.

Whatever the level of hockey, though, the concussion still wins.

Look at the players who have missed the most time in the NHL with concussions. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 18 months. David Perron, 14 months. Sidney Crosby, 10 months. Marc Staal, three months and counting. Each one of them took a hit that obviously concussed them and all of them, to varying degrees, played after the initial contact.

And there's the hard reality of what happens to players who play when they've been concussed. They can try, but they won't win. Because you can't cheat the concussion.

Colby Armstrong (Photo: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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