Concussions Package: Heads Up Play

After A Career Full Of Concussions, NHL Star Rethinks Approach To The Game

As tough as he was talented, Jeremy Roenick took pride in being able to survive and succeed in the daily grind of the NHLAs tough as he was talented, Jeremy Roenick took pride in being able to survive and succeed in the daily grind of the NHL

Jeremy Roenick played through the pain of broken bones, pulled muscles and aching joints throughout the course of his 20-year NHL career.

So, he never even considered sitting out while dealing with the symptoms from any of the 13 concussions he suffered during a 1,363-game career. That toughness defined him every bit as much as the 513 goals, 1,216 points and 1,463 penalty minutes he accumulated with five teams while playing his way into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

“The pain never really bothered me, because pain always goes away,” says Roenick, who retired from the San Jose Sharks in 2009 and now works as a color analyst for NBC Sports’ coverage of the NHL. “It’s what people are going to think of you after it that doesn’t go away so easy. People will remember. I always say pain is temporary and pride is forever.

“I didn’t care what would happen to me afterwards. It was more about the team. That’s what I was going to do to help the team win. Those were the things that were more important to me than the well-being of my body.”

Roenick tells the story of being knocked out cold for 15 minutes after taking an elbow to the head from Minnesota’s Jim Johnson early in his career while with the Chicago Blackhawks. He remembers nothing of those 15 minutes, but takes pride in the fact that he returned the very next night and registered a hat trick.

Under the guidelines of today’s concussion protocol, Roenick knows he would not have been allowed to play that second night or even step on the ice for at least one week. For the benefit of his own safety and the team. And he knows that is a good thing.

 

 

“That’s where the NHL has really done a good job of taking the responsibility out of the player’s hands. They make sure you do not make that decision, they do,” he says of the league’s concussion protocol.

Roenick feels good at age 45, but occasionally feels the aftereffects of the concussions he suffered during his career. He says his memory isn’t quite as sharp and he sometimes struggles to find the right words.

In 2014, he teamed with former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon to spread awareness on the impact of concussions and to change perceptions of the injury.

“It’s important because I think a lot of players will feel like they’re letting their teammates down if they don’t try to battle through certain things and certain elements,” Roenick says. “But the knowledge and education about concussions has come along so well that every kid now is really wary of them and cognizant of what’s going on.

“If it has anything that has to do with the head, no one’s going to give you any grief. If you have a sprained ankle or your back is a little sore or something like that, they might rib you a little if you don’t play. Guys know that it if has anything to do with the brain or the head, you don’t criticize any of them. It’s a lot different than toughness, no question about it.”

Issue: 
2015-12

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