PITTSBURGH – John-Michael Liles even went so far as to search for a set of new pillows, anything to alleviate the neck problem which has plagued him since late December.
Contrary to the widely-held assumption, however, Liles does not believe that he has been suffering from a concussion. In fact, the 31-year-old believes that the symptoms he's been experiencing for the past 15 games are more closely related to the trouble he's been having with his neck, specifically a "locked" feeling which has quietly subsided of late.
"Everybody wants to call it a concussion," he exclaimed to TSN.ca. "Everybody says 'Oh, if you have whiplash you have a concussion' ... I wasn't sitting there going 'Oh man I feel so foggy' or anything like that, it just felt like I was just completely locked up and it was cutting off my focus and things like that.
"It all seemed like it was always neck-related and it almost felt like it was cutting off the flow to my brain sometimes just because it was so stiff."
Unlike Colby Armstrong, Liles never experienced the wide-range of symptoms generally associated with a concussion, the worst in his case being dizziness, an issue that only inflamed itself when he was on the ice.
"When I skate I skate super-low so I'm hunched over and my shoulders would tend to kind of bunch up here," Liles said, pointing to the area surrounding his neck. "When I was skating I would start to get just a little bit of dizziness when I skated. Never really dealt with a lot of headaches or anything like that, that's why I didn't really feel it was a concussion thing, it felt like more of a neck thing to me."
A thunderous hit from Paul Gaustad on December 22 left Liles in a rather uncomfortable state, unable to even sleep in the immediate aftermath of the collision. "For the first few days after it happened it was so locked up," he explained, "and for the first week or so it was almost like you couldn't really do anything."
Of late, the signs are trending in a positive direction.
Liles continues to move forward in the recovery process and could be in line for a return in the very near future, although he insists that progress will be measured on a day-to-day basis. Working in tandem with the Leafs training staff, he's focused his efforts on both loosening and strengthening the area around his neck.
Neck troubles have also recently surfaced in the case of Sidney Crosby, who has been battling with a concussion for over a year now. James Reimer was initially knocked out of the Leaf lineup in late October, suffering from what the team initially termed as "whiplash-like symptoms" – the effects of which seem to mirror closely with those of a concussion – before later concealing the injury as something more closely resembling "concussion-like symptoms".
Liles is listed as being out with an undisclosed injury, although he too was termed to have been bothered by "concussion-like symptoms" when the injury first occurred. The Indiana native signed a four-year extension with the Leafs last week.