Pros aren’t the only athletes who can suffer concussions

Hockey player Nick Macken of Calgary, Alta. gets ready for a game on Nov. 11th, 2018. Macken has played hockey for 14 years accumulating nine concussions. (Photo by Austin Shouli/ThePress)

The NHL reached a tentative settlement on Monday, Nov. 12th, with more than 300 former players regarding concussion related symptoms, yet countless amateurs also suffer concussions.

“I’ve been playing hockey for about 14 years,” said Nick Macken, who currently competes in a Calgary recreational hockey league.

“I had two concussions before starting hockey, one from a recreational event accident, one from playing football at school.

“From hockey I accumulated nine more, to this day. The most recent happening about three years ago,” Macken said.

“It’s an immediate feeling of drowsiness, and fatigue. Light is super sensitive to the eyes, and motor skills are super lethargic and slow.

“Depending on the severity of the concussion, effects lasted usually no longer than one to one-and-a-half weeks. I would just rest and recover at home.

“During major concussions I was often very ill, so I would have to wait until that cleared up.”

A concussion is a form of brain injury caused when the brain makes contact with the inside wall of the skull. Symptoms can include dizziness, confusion, sensitivity to light, or drowsiness.

“I’m most worried about the degenerative brain disease CTE kicking in later on in life,” said Macken, referring to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a brain disease that is caused by repetitive impacts to the head. The effects of CTE might not appear for months, years, or even decades after brain trauma, according the Boston University CTE Research Centre.

This degeneration of brain tissue has been linked to many mental health issues, including depression, memory loss, suicide, and dementia.

“My father lost some of his memory from his football years in high school and after, so it worries me a bit definitely,” said Macken.

“Long term it hasn’t affected me too much, however, memory of certain events has begun to fade.”

In recent years Hockey Canada, the governing body for amateur youth leagues, has taken steps to improve awareness and training for coaches and referees.

Some of these changes include eliminating body checking from the Pee Wee level of minor hockey, or the 11 to 12 years old age range.

“I’ve had two or three concussions from hockey,” said Rhys Hripko, who played hockey for 13 years achieving the level of Midget AA for the Calgary Royals and Notre Dame Hounds.

“I would say they have made me sensitive to light, impacted my vision, and occasionally I get headaches that likely stem from the concussions.”

Hripko also suffered a partially detached retina in his left eye, from the same impact that gave him a concussion.

His coach benched him for the rest of that game but was reluctant to let him see the trainer. If the other team noticed a goalie had left, they might try and injure the remaining goalie, allowing them to win by default.

“The retina detachment was noticed fairly soon. Sensitivity to light was also fairly quick and never left,” said Hripko.

“My vision has gotten worse since, but it’s tough to say whether that was due to the concussion or genetics.

“When playing hockey at boarding school, I remember one kid who had a very serious concussion. I think he was out cold.

“He couldn’t play hockey again and gained a ton of weight, very quickly, more weight than he should have just from stopping sports.

“I remember having to wake up kids who had major concussions. We would have to wake them up in the middle of the night to make sure they were still breathing.”

Hockey player Nick Macken of Calgary, Alta. examines his helmet before a beer-league game on Nov. 11th, 2018. Macken has played hockey for 14 years accumulating nine concussions. (Photo by Austin Shouli/ThePress)
About Austin Shouli 1 Article
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Austin Shouli is working as a writer for The Press during the 2018-19 academic year.