The ongoing concussion issue in the NHL has been labeled a problem by many in the past few years. And, as we all know, the old cliche goes that the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.
While it would be unfair to say the NHL and all its teams have failed to recognize the issue at hand, it's still a kept quiet in some places. Take Toronto, for example.
Joffrey Lupul took a vicious double hit last week in a game against the Flyers. He was sandwiched by Adam Hall and Jay Rosehill and was obviously out of sorts. He left the game and didn't return, all signs pointing toward a concussion for the Maple Leafs winger.
A week later, signs still point toward a concussion. Lupul himself thinks he sustained one. Yet the Leafs won't say it, as if it the word is cursed or has some kind of stigma and/or indicates a weakness. In fact, the doctors won't even say it to Lupul.
"I think it's safe to say I took a pretty solid blow to the head," Lupul said. "Anyone who was watching could have seen that. ... Obviously anyone who saw me try to go to the bench could tell there were some symptoms."
Lupul said he isn't certain why, in some hockey circles, there appears to be an aversion to calling concussions what they are, even if experts will tell you "concussion" is a relatively inert term compared to a more precise synonym such as, say, "brain trauma." The team's official diagnosis, of course, is "upper-body injury."
In that story, it says Lupul is left to assume he has a concussion; he's not being told this outright by the team doctors. I'm not quite sure how that is supposed to help the process.
Of course, we already know that coach Randy Carlyle doesn't like to use the word unless they are 100-percent sure. Well, it has been a week, with the doctors and resources they have in the NHL, are we still not sure? Lupul seems to be.
Now I will say this for the Leafs: They are treating Lupul like he has a concussion; it's not exactly like they are turning a blind eye and pushing him to get back. He made it clear the team was doing no such pushing, so that's good. But why the secrecy? Why not tell a player he has suffered a concussion so he can proceed accordingly? Or, in the off chance that Lupul didn't sustain a concussion, why not clear it up for him and let him know he didn't sustain one? Because right now, he is operating under the assumption that he did.
Hockey people rack their brains every day -- our Chris Peters did that in this very space a few weeks back -- over ways to improve the safety for players, to do all we can to reduce the number of concussions that we see. Not only is it bad for the product to have players missing multiple games due to injury, but it's obviously not good for the players' well-being. Mum being the word isn't going to help improve things, neither the education of it nor the treatment.
This probably goes back to the stupid tradition of secrecy on injury lists. For some reason across all sports, the majority of teams keep their team injuries as classified as the nuclear launch codes at the White House. Some give the least amount of information they are required to give.
I don't understand what real benefit a team will get from a player's injury being described as just an "upper-body injury." If the injury report were to say "concussion," does that mean players would start head-hunting as soon as Lupul is back on the ice? I don't think so. That's a good way to get a big suspension.
As far as Lupul's condition, he seems to be doing well, all things considered. He said he doesn't expect that this will keep him out of the lineup for too much longer; his symptoms aren't severe.
To be clear, those are upper-body injury symptoms that he's talking about.