MLS

Butler: From innocent defending a concussion results

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Noel Butler
6/15/2013 9:31:23 PM
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May Day 2013 will live long in the memory for the Montreal Impact and supporters alike.

However, for one particular Impact player rejuvenated under Marco Schällibaum this season the 6-0 mauling of Toronto FC in the Second Leg of the ACC semi-final has an all altogether different meaning.

It was early in the second half; a seemingly innocent clearance from a corner where Davy Arnaud's lights went out as he became the latest high profile victim of a sports related concussion.

Now some six-plus weeks on the MLS veteran of close to 300 matches is still none the wiser of when exactly he can return to full training with the squad. 

Let alone do what he does best, be that fearless leader on the pitch for the top performing team in the entire league as the Impact survey opponents from atop their lofty Eastern Conference perch.

To this day Arnaud has very little memory of the actual incident.

"Right when it happened and I was down on the ground, I didn't really remember how I had taken the hit," the Impact captain disclosed to TSN.ca.

Arnaud did know things were not as they should seem.

"So initially I knew that it wasn't completely right. It was just under a week later when I wasn't feeling great but I tried to run just to get through it and I tried to run for the first time and the way that my body reacted to that I think really let me know that I wasn't in a good way."

His physical symptoms were taking a toll. "I think everybody reacts differently, but for me I was getting headaches on and off throughout the day, I was getting nauseous, sick in my stomach."

It was during this phase Arnaud was lacked any familiar reference points.

"Almost like, the best way of describing it to the doctors is you feel like you had a beer or something, a couple of beers at lunch. That's the closest thing I could relate it to. You're not doing anything, you're just kind of walking around, and so I was getting those feelings on and off for quite a few weeks."

Anyone who has suffered through a concussion is fully aware the initial treatment phase is almost bereft of medical intervention. Time the only healer. 

"For the first few weeks, the thing is there is not a lot you can do to treat a concussion — there is really nothing you can do," continued Arnaud.

Fortunately Impact team doctor Scott Delaney is one of the nation's leading concussion authorities.

"He (Delaney) just told me some things that I have on my computer, staying away from watching TV in a dark room, things like that which can kind of aggravate your brain a little bit and slow down the healing process. So that's all you can really do in terms of the treatment."

Three weeks or so into the treatment the mere act of jumping on a bike set Arnaud back. Additionally a significant dilemma presented itself.

Arnaud revealing, "The team was about to go on a trip, a week-long trip, and a few days before I talked to them and I said 'look, I don't feel like I'm improving like I want to be, is there anything I can do?'".

It was late May, the second leg of the ACC Final in Vancouver only a few days away, followed up with a pivotal league match in Kansas less than 72 hours later.

After spending a decade in the Blue of Kansas, June 1 was supposed to have been a homecoming of sorts for Arnaud.

"He [Delaney] suggested I maybe stay away from the team for a little bit and not think about it, be at home by myself basically. That's what I did. I stayed away from the team, the team left and went and played in the cup final, played in Kansas city and I was here in Montreal."

Added to the professional sense of disappointment Arnaud was left to his own devices at home.

"My family was gone as well, so I was kind of at home by myself for a while, and as tough as it was I think it helped me to move the process along".

His daily routine about as bland as could be - imprisoned it must have felt like.

"It's a whole lot of nothing, to be honest with you. Especially when I wasn't around the team I would wake up in the morning and have breakfast and then basically I would sit around the house."

Sit Arnaud did. "I wasn't trying to read anything, I wasn't getting on the computer, I watched some TV and I would try to get out around lunch time and at least take a walk and go grab some lunch."

"It's so much against what you normally do or what you think you should do as an athlete. You do work every day to help speed the process up."

With any physical injury there is always a treatment schedule. Goals to be attained providing a sense of physical accomplishment and with immense psychological benefits as well.

Not the case with a concussion.

"It's the opposite. You're not sure when you're going to back and the best thing you can do is not do anything, so that was the hardest thing for me."

"Doing that every single day has not been easy, that's for sure."

Part of that non-easy feeling was the toll his health scare could be having on the Arnaud family. "When it goes on for a few weeks, three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, obviously my wife starts to worry about it, and you start to worry about it."

Worry is one thing but being away from those most meaningful in your time of need could for many add anxieties. For Arnaud the strength of personality and character took over.

"There's never a good time to be away from your family, but it would probably be this period so I could kind of be by myself. It's not easy, but you go about your daily life."

This is not to say Arnaud did not suffer through any psychological scarring. He's human, like the rest of us.

"It really hasn't been easy, to be honest with you, it's been tough. It's been really tough. This is for me probably the last six weeks have been the hardest time in my career in the past twelve years. It's been the hardest time without any doubt."

"It's been the toughest for me psychologically for sure."

Not allowed to perform in his chosen profession. Arnaud was also barred from his place of work.

"Not only are you not playing, but I wasn't involved with the team, I wasn't going to play games, I wasn't really involved with training in terms of talking and being there in the locker rooms and you're used to doing that every single day of your life and those things that you're passionate about are taken away."

In times of trouble you reach out to the joyous aspects life affords, those distractions which infuse.

"I love golf. Any kind spare time I get, if I could do anything I'd be playing golf. It's something I love to do, I'm passionate about, and I'll always love to do."

"When you have kids, it can be time that's spent with them, going to play golf. I think it's any dad's kind of dream."

Speaking of dreams one such moment occurred this past Tuesday. "All my dreams have come true," Arnaud tweeted adding a photo. No, not a hole-in-one.

Just a few moments a father spent with his baby son in the doorway of their Montreal family home. Putting away were dad and son as Mrs. Arnaud captured it all on camera.

"I was putting and he was. It was pretty cool. It sounds kind of silly I guess but it was great and he loves watching it on TV, that's been fun."

This past Monday Arnaud was with the team at training to begin a fitness regime away from the squad.

MLS have a very strict policy around players returning to action from concussions. There is no such thing as a mild concussion, all of the serious form.

"There's a sort of protocol you have to go through to be able to return to playing. Guidelines everyone in league has to go through who have had a concussion"

"I'm going through those steps right now and making sure that I feel right after I've done each step and the trainers and the doctors have been great."

In the lead up to Wednesday evening's encounter at Saputo Stadium against conference foe the Dynamo there stands chance however remote Arnaud could rejoin the squad for light training.

50-plus long and darkened days will have come and gone since the concussion occurred on May 1.

"If everything goes well, I've talked to the doctor, if the next number of steps I have to pass, if they go well, if the running goes well, then I'm hoping that at some point next week I'm back involved with training."

Following the not insignificant matter of regaining his match fitness lies ahead for the soon to be birthday celebrating Arnaud. The Impact captain turns 32 on June 22.

"Then once I'm back training, it's just going to be a matter of getting my fitness back, but I've always considered myself pretty fit. I take care of myself in the off season when I'm not playing, so I don't think it will take much longer to get my fitness back."

The road back has been protracted, the finish line soon to appear on the horizon. 

"It can be hard to deal with, but you know, I've stayed positive; I try to think positively as much as I can and I know that I'm going to get better."

A final chance to visit that filling up glass, "Once I'm back playing I'm going to be stronger than I was before and this will be just a memory."

No prizes for guessing what particular TV station and live global sports event from Merion on Sunday afternoon this dad will be watching from the comfort of the sofa with his son putter in hand.

As they get to celebrate a Father's Day possibly like no other in the Arnaud household.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel

The full chat with Davy Arnaud will air exclusively live on TSN690 Monday Evening at 7pm et - Listen Live www.TSN690.ca

Montreal Impact v Houston Dynamo Live on TSN - Wednesday, June 19 with pre-game at 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt.

Davy Arnaud (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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