What it feels like to get a concussion
With all the talk about the NFL and concussions this week -- including the news that Chris Cooley continued to play after suffering his concussion on Sunday -- I figured I'd ask someone from a different sport about a similar incident.
That would be Karl Alzner, the Caps defenseman, who was sidelined for more than two weeks during the 2008 AHL playoffs after suffering a minor concussion. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forward Janne Pesonen was closing in on Alzner during Game 4 of the division finals, but his defensive partner had no other options, so the puck came to Alzner, who one-touched it to a winger. Then he got hit.
"You know when you get your picture taken right in front of your face with a big flash and you get that white light [in your eyes]?" Alzner explained. "It was like that. Just really strange. [The light] stayed for like 15 minutes or so, and then the headaches start to come on. It was kind of weird. I don't want that to happen again. Really scary."
Alzner's Hershey Bears were locked in a close game, and he had never had a concussion and didn't know that's what had happened, so he initially kept playing.
"I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know exactly what, and it was playoffs," he said. "We were making a good push, and I was like ok, I'll just play, try and see if we can get close. And then they scored again, so I was like all right, I think it's time to be smart here."
Alzner didn't have all of the major post-concussion symptoms, but he struggled with the headaches any time he exercised for days, and so he was a spectator as the Bears continued their march to the Calder Cup.
"The bad part about it is, you can't do anything," he said. "It's not like pain -- you can play through pain. You can't do it, and that's what's so frustrating. Jay Beagle's had a few, and I talked to him a ton about it. He said he would never wish that upon his worst enemy, and that's exactly the way it is. It's a terrible thing to have."
Alzner's concussion was minor, but he had experiences with more severe head injuries in junior hockey. Once, a teammate after the game found that he could hear just fine in the post-game dressing room, but was unable to speak, "and then all of the sudden he just started crying, couldn't help it," Alzner said.
Another time, he sat behind a teammate on the bus who had been hit in the head during a just-concluded game. The teammate found hockey cards in his pocket and asked where they came from; Alzner told him a fan had just handed them to him.
"That's so sick, I didn't know, that's awesome," the teammate said.
He then asked what happened in the game; he was told that their team had lost, but that he had scored.
"I scored? Yes!" the injured player said.
Then he looked at his cell phone and asked whose picture was saved on the screen; "That's your girlfriend," teammates said.
"I have a girlfriend? What's her name?" he asked.
"And he asked me all the same questions five minutes later, and then about three or four more times," Alzner said. "Pretty messed up stuff. That's why you don't want to play with them. It's tough to say no, it's tough to say no I don't want to practice, I don't want to play, but you have to."
| October 20, 2010; 2:13 PM ET
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