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Re: concussions

Post by C_R » Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:08 pm

rudy wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 6:55 pm
Where can I follow Edina vs maple grove tonight in real time?

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" the clock is ticking"

Post by greybeard58 » Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:53 pm

" the clock is ticking"

Tim Thomas didn't expect this - the pain, the suffering, being open about both. Yet there he was, signature goatee and all, speaking candidly with a small group of reporters earlier this month in Washington.

His voice trembled. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He bore it all.

"I wake up everyday and basically have to reorder everything in my mind for the first couple hours of the day and then make a list and try to make some choices to get some stuff done," Thomas said.

The former NHL goalie feels better now than he did when he retired in 2014. But, overall, Thomas is not OK. His brain simply doesn't function like a 45-year-old's should. He says a 2015 medical scan revealed two-thirds of it was getting less than 5% blood flow while the other third was averaging about 50%. Concussions sustained between the pipes have scrambled his brain.

"I couldn't communicate with anybody for a few years," Thomas said of his early retirement days, when he'd ignore loved ones. He later mentioned he "sat out in the woods" for a while, presumably to limit contact with the world.

The decade began with such promise for Thomas, who played a starring role in Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup victory. At 36, he authored a season for Bruins lore, posting a remarkable .939 save percentage in 82 total games played, claiming both the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies.

Thomas was in D.C. for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Dec. 12. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who on several occasions has denied there's a link between hockey concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease known as CTE, was part of the Hall's incoming class, too.

During Thomas' two-and-half-minute acceptance speech that night, Bettman was seated a few feet away, providing nods of support as the former netminder nervously stammered through some of his remarks.

The scene was surreal, all things considered, and a fitting end to the 2010s.

The concussion decade

Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuropathologist, made a key discovery in late 2009. Former NHLer Reggie Fleming, who died at 73 of progressive dementia, became the first hockey player diagnosed with CTE. The disease, she noted, should no longer be considered exclusive to football and boxing.

McKee's finding coincided with the NFL - the 'it' league - finally acknowledging football concussions can lead to long-term neurological problems. This set the tone for an enlightening past 10 years in the hockey world. "This idea of brain injuries being important in hockey has really sunk in during the last decade," University of Toronto neurosurgery professor Dr. Charles Tator said in an interview.

The issue truly hit critical mass when Sidney Crosby, the best player on the planet, took two blows to the head in the first four days of 2011. He left the Winter Classic following a blindside hit by David Steckel, and then was nailed from behind by Victor Hedman. From there, Crosby exhibited classic concussion symptoms, including headaches, balance problems, dizziness, and sensitivity to light. He battled setbacks, and didn't appear in a single game for 320 days. It was an extreme, worrisome, and very public situation.

The NHL reacted. New concussion protocol and an update to Rule 48 were introduced during Crosby's recovery period. Team physicians were authorized to send players into the "quiet room," and officials were authorized to call penalties on all hits to the head, not just some, with the ability to dish out either a minor or major penalty, not just a major.

Around this time, three former NHL enforcers were found dead over a span of four months. Derek Boogaard, 28, accidentally overdosed on medication while recovering from a concussion. Rick Rypien, 27, and Wade Belak, 35, committed suicide. Tests performed posthumously found all three had CTE. If it didn't already, the league now had a full-blown controversy to wrestle with.

In the wake of Boogaard's death, The New York Times asked Bettman about a possible link between hockey and CTE. "There isn’t a lot of data, and the experts who we talked to, who consult with us, think that it’s way premature to be drawing any conclusions at this point," he replied. Eight years later, with the list of former NHL players diagnosed with CTE reaching double digits, Bettman made a similar remark to a concussion committee in Canadian Parliament. "Other than some anecdotal evidence," he said this past May, "there has not been that conclusive link.”

By the end of the decade, Bettman had ammo in the form of a legal victory. In 2013, a group of ex-NHLers filed a lawsuit against the NHL, claiming the league failed to protect its players from head injuries and didn't properly warn them of the game's health risks. The two sides settled for $18.9 million, or $22,000 for each of the 318 players involved. The 2018 payout, which included other medical help, was a fraction of the billion-dollar settlement between the NFL and a group of 20,000 former players. And, unlike the NFL, the NHL avoided liability. In a legal sense, they didn't admit any wrongdoing.

"When you have a defendant who has spent millions of dollars litigating a case for four years to prove that nothing is wrong with getting your brain bashed in, you can only get so far," NHL player attorney Stuart Davidson told the Associated Press shortly after the settlement.

In an interview with theScore earlier this month, player agent and lawyer Allan Walsh labelled the payout a "joke" that amounts to a "drop in the bucket" for the retired player community. Walsh, co-managing director for Octagon Hockey, has been one of Bettman's harshest critics, regularly taking the commissioner to task on Twitter for denying the concussion-CTE link both inside the courtroom and within the court of public opinion.

"(The denial) has huge significance, and the significance is this: Bettman is using that fallacy, that false narrative, to disclaim any responsibility for helping the players who are no longer in the NHL and who are experiencing issues," Walsh said. "It's a way of (saying), 'We are not responsible, we are not liable, and by the way, there's no association between blows to the head and CTE.'"

Walsh's passion for the issue has been fueled by difficult conversations with loved ones of former players and the players themselves. In one instance, a longtime client couldn't find his way home from a nearby market. The player, helpless and confused, couldn't connect the dots. "He didn't recognize streets," Walsh said. "He pulled over, started having a panic attack and called me and said, 'It's only two miles away and I can't find my way home, I'm lost.’"

According to Boston University, CTE symptoms include "memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, Parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia." However, since CTE cannot be diagnosed in the living, doctors can only say a living player may have it. "If we don't know exactly who's got it, it's hard to start treating people," Tator, who has worked in this space for decades, said. "A lot of the treatments do carry a risk, for example, so you wouldn't want to give a drug to people you don't really know they've got CTE. Lack of ability to diagnose this in the living is really holding things up."

"There's a lot of fear out there with players who are experiencing symptoms," Walsh said of pro hockey alumni. "They're asking themselves, 'Do I have CTE? Am I going to get CTE?'"

As the 2010s moved along and investigative journalists continued to humanize the impact of concussions on former pros - TSN reporter Rick Westhead has led the charge in this area, profiling homeless ex-player Joe Murphy, among many others - a group of active NHLers hung up their skates earlier than they planned. Marc Savard, Rick Nash, Clarke MacArthur, Johan Franzen, and Brenden Morrow all cited head trauma as a major reason for retirement. Ex-fighter Daniel Carcillo, who stopped playing in 2015, has been particularly outspoken about the issue, asking for accountability from the NHL.

Through it all, lawyer-speak has persisted. It became a theme of the decade, really, as various high-profile NHL figures - front-office executives, team owners, medical consultants - not only denied a conclusive link between hockey concussions and CTE through carefully worded statements, but also, in some cases, flat-out claimed while under oath during legal proceedings that they were unaware of CTE altogether.

Citing lawsuit deposition transcripts from 2015, Westhead reported Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs was asked by a lawyer representing the players if he had ever heard of the neurodegenerative disease.

His answer? "No."

'Hockey can be saved'

To the NHL's credit, there seemed to be a shift towards better concussion awareness, prevention, and treatment in the back half of the 2010s. The concussion-spotter protocol, for instance, was updated again in 2016 to add another layer of support. There are now both in-arena spotters and centralized spotters in the league's New York office assigned to each game.

In August, the NHL and NHLPA released a 13-minute educational video about concussion symptoms and how to identify a concussed player. Every NHLer must watch the video at training camp, according to the official concussion evaluation and management protocol. Brochures and posters are also resources for players, while medical personnel and coaches are required to attend separate concussion-related sessions at different points in the season.

Teams that do not comply with protocol guidelines - say, if a club doesn't use all the mandatory concussion-assessment tools before allowing a player to return to action - are subject to a minimum fine of $25,000. Subsequent offenses in the same season lead to "substantially increased fine amounts.”

"We've put a tremendous amount of effort in diagnosing protocols, return-to-play protocols, making sure players are educated, changing the culture of the game so that players know that it's OK to say, 'I'm having symptoms,'" Bettman told reporters earlier this month at the U.S. Hockey Hall induction. "We want to make sure that we're doing everything possible, that we're staying on top of the medicine and the science as it's being told to us to make sure we're diagnosing and treating appropriately."

From Chris Nowinski's perspective as CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the NHLPA's role in this process cannot be ignored. He says the players' union hasn't been proactive enough. "I think we are closing in on a decade since anyone from our research team had a formal meeting with anyone from the NHLPA," Nowinski said. "Considering 93% of NHL players studied (13 of 14) have had CTE, I would think they’d be more interested in understanding it, as they actually have the power to prevent it." For what it's worth, the PA donated $500,000 to concussion research in 2015.

Nowinski also hopes to see active NHL players pledge their brain for future CTE research. Only former New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy has made that commitment so far, when he announced his donation in late 2017. "Active players have the attention of the public in a way that retired players do not," Nowinski noted. "If they continue to choose to remain on the bench in the CTE fight, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves when there is still no treatment for CTE in 30 years, when some of them will certainly need it."

The NHL Alumni Association, meanwhile, is in the middle of a research partnership with Canopy that aims to "investigate the efficacy of cannabinoids as an integral part of a novel treatment for post-concussion neurological diseases in former NHL players." Roughly 100 ex-players are said to be participating in the randomized, double-blind study. Also, Westhead reported earlier this month that the NHLAA has established a "resource team" to support its membership, and hired a social worker.

Despite all of this, corners of the hockey world wonder if perhaps the way the game is played, promoted, and officiated needs to be recalibrated. Concussions are inevitable in all sports, since a direct blow to the head is not the only way to sustain a brain injury. "It could be just a jiggle of the brain," Tator said. "Anything that shakes the head on the shoulders can cause concussions." Logically, then, making hockey a safer, at all levels, should result in fewer concussions. One way to do this is by minimizing physicality.

Hall of Famers Eric Lindros and Ken Dryden have gone on record about their shared desire to ban body contact. Lindros' career ended because of brain injuries; he's a tireless advocate for research and funding. Dryden released a biography about Steve Montador, who had CTE, in 2017; he's been a staunch Bettman opponent. The idea of no contact has its merits, but is a rather extreme idea at this point.

Walsh has a less drastic solution to propose: "I think the most sensible proposal out there - which makes absolute common sense in every way - is to actually have a ban on all hits to the head and to have the current rules that are on the books more strictly enforced," he said. "By a ban on hits to the head, that means a strict liability ban. You're not looking at intent, you're not looking at whether it's accidental. If there's a hit to the head, it's penalized.”

There's hope for the future of hockey, Tator says, but only if certain rule changes pass and proper precautions are followed. "I'm not sure football will survive the ravages of brain injury. But I think hockey can be saved," he said. "There's enough prevention measures that (the hockey community) can follow to save the game."

As for Bettman and denials, in Walsh's opinion, the clock is ticking.

"Time is working against the NHL and against Bettman," he said. "He's on the wrong side of the issue and he will ultimately be proven to be on the wrong side of history. I think his position on this issue here will be a stain on his legacy forever."

Concussions dominated the 2010s, but the NHL is still fighting its demons
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Re: concussions

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Dec 31, 2019 12:18 pm

"how crucial it is for parents of student athletes to be proactive in concussion prevention, detection and treatment"

High schools across the U.S. face numerous barriers to implementing laws intended to help students recover from concussions, a small U.S. study suggests.

Researchers interviewed 64 high school athletic trainers from 26 states and the District of Columbia about challenges they encountered when trying to follow state policies designed to educate coaches and parents about concussions, remove athletes from sports during concussion recovery and ease athletes back into sports participation safely.

“Not giving the brain enough time to heal after a concussion can be dangerous,” said senior study author Jingzhen Yang of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain heals fully from the first concussion can slow recovery and increase the individual’s risk for short- and long-term health problems,” Yang said by email. “If a child or teen is believed to have a concussion, they need to be removed from play immediately, and . . . only return to play or practice after obtaining permission from a healthcare professional.”

Concussion education materials given by schools to athletes, coaches and parents were often loaded with jargon, lacking in active learning approaches and only available in English, the study found.

One challenge in removing students with suspected concussions from sports is that athletes may be unwilling to be sidelined or may mask symptoms to avoid it, the study found. Coaches and parents can also resist taking athletes out of competition, and many athletic trainers also noted a culture that encourages students to “tough it out” instead of leaving games.

Finding the right time to return injured athletes to practices and competitions can be tricky because many students don’t have access to concussion specialists, who are in the best position to determine readiness, the study found. Students may lack insurance or live far from specialists or face other barriers to care. When they do receive care, they may not always be forthcoming with coaches about the need to remain on the sidelines when they want to get back to playing.

One limitation of the study is that researchers only looked at schools with the resources to hire athletic trainers and with written concussion policies. Barriers to implementing state concussion laws might differ at schools without athletic trainers or written policies in place, the study team notes in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Laws are passed with good intent but organizations like schools that are mandated to implement these laws are often not resourced to do so,” said Dr. Monica Vavilala, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington, in Seattle.

“So, schools have to prioritize care needs and not all schools have athletic trainers or school nurses,” Vavilala, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Therefore, the students with the most serious and life-threatening conditions get more attention.”

The study results underscore how crucial it is for parents of student athletes to be proactive in concussion prevention, detection and treatment, said Avinash Chandran, a brain injury researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who wasn’t involved in the study.

Parents should talk about concussions with their children, coaches and especially with doctors, Chandran said by email.

“Conversations with their children about concussions will help emphasize the seriousness of concussions in youth sports, encourage the reporting of symptoms (as they are felt and for as long as they are felt) and subsequently minimize the risk of recurrent concussions as well as of long-term adverse outcomes following concussions,” Chandran added.

High schools struggle to follow state concussion laws ... SKBN1YE2J2

Journal of Adolescent Health, online November 19, 2019

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Shaking Human Brains To Study Head Trauma

Post by greybeard58 » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:31 am

Shaking Human Brains To Study Head Trauma

Philip Bayly has spent years trying to figure out the best way to jiggle a brain.

The mechanical engineer is part of a team of researchers at Washington University studying how a jolt to the head can shake the brain — the kind of injury a football player suffers when crashing into an opponent. Using a specially-designed device that vibrates volunteers’ heads, they hope to better understand the effects of repeated brain injuries.

Many people think of the brain as a hard ball bouncing inside your head, Bayly said, but it’s more like soft pink Jello tethered to your skull.

“Your brain doesn’t just rattle around loosely,” he said. “It’s connected to the skull by a really intricate system of membranes. I liken it to a bungee jumper, where the cord protects you from a dramatic collision.”

The membranes offer some cushion to the brain, but even a seemingly minor bump on the head can twist and deform the delicate organ. Repeated head injuries can lead to serious neurodegenerative diseases, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Researchers do not recreate brain injuries in the lab because that would be unethical and unsafe for patients. But they can collect data on how the brain moves in response to slight vibrations and use it build mathematical simulations of head trauma, which Bayly calls “virtual crash tests.”

“You can run a simulation on the computer and have someone in a car or playing football and see how that experience is causing their brain to respond,” Bayly said. “But first, we have to provide insight into how those computer models should be built based on rational scientific data, as opposed to just guesswork.”

Jostling brains for science

To understand how the live human brain moves, Bayly and his colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine plan to shake dozens of them beginning this year.

They’ve designed a special device that cradles and vibrates the head while a volunteer is inside an MRI machine. A loudspeaker vibrates a pillow filled with air under the volunteer’s head, creating a buzzing sensation.

“If you were at a dance club, feeling the pounding base, it would be similar to this,” said Bayly, holding his hand over a vibrating model of a human head encased in an orange frame.

The plastic head is connected to a laptop with a bundle of wires — and with a few keystrokes, WashU graduate student Christie Crandall turns off the vibrations.

Although the setup looks simple, the design process has been challenging. For one thing, the team has had to be creative when it comes to which materials they can use.

“In an MRI, you can’t have anything magnetic, so you can’t use metal,” Crandall said. “There are not a lot of options that are not metal to do this kind of data acquisition.”

'It's a tangled web'

The research team will enroll about 100 local men and women ranging from teenagers to people over 50 for one-hour MRI sessions. While the device vibrates their heads for 10 to 15 minutes, the MRI machine will take multiple high-resolution images of their brains.

Previous research has often focused on young, healthy adult males, Bayly said.

By examining the brains of men and women of various ages, the team hopes future researchers will be able to use the data to understand chronic brain injuries across a broader range of people, including military service members and domestic abuse victims.

Bayly has spent more than a decade figuring out how to measure the movement of a live human brain, but he said there are still many questions left to answer.

“It’s a tangled web that we’re trying to uncover,” he said. “And we’re trying to uncover it beginning with the mechanics.”

These St. Louis Scientists Are Shaking Human Brains To Study Head Trauma
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1: The Max Foundation opens a mental wellness dialogue in Warroad

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:40 pm

1: The Max Foundation opens a mental wellness dialogue in Warroad

Last week inside the fabled Warroad Gardens ice rink, a local hockey fan stopped Conway Marvin to ask what the Max Foundation was all about.

Marvin, whose surname represents hockey royalty within the tiny northern town, considered the inquiry itself as a sign of success.

Created to honor Max Marvin, who at age 19 died by suicide on Dec. 29, 2018, the foundation operates with a mission “to raise funds with the intent to support charitable programs, projects, and activities that facilitate mental wellness amongst the youth in the Warroad area.”

Conway Marvin said he explained this with a certain satisfaction knowing “before December 29 of 2018, no one would have asked” about matters pertaining to mental wellness. Himself included.

Conway Marvin is a cousin to David Marvin, the Warroad girls’ hockey head coach and Max’s father. Conway is a father of four grown children and a grandfather to eight yet said he was “disconnected” on mental wellness and suicide. He said of his eight grandchildren, “statistically, one or two of them could face mental health challenges and that scares the hell out of me.”

“I didn’t understand how big of an issue it was,” said Conway, a board chairperson. “Going through this with Max – he made a bad decision. The question is why. I don’t have an answer. But it hit home that these are real, honest issues. Doing nothing was not an option.”

Enlightening the Warroad community is underway this school year. The Max Foundation partnered with Project 11 to provide a curriculum and access to materials focusing on mental wellness for Warroad Public Schools students from kindergarten to the sixth-grade.

Project 11 was inspired and created in honor of former NHL player Rick Rypien, who died by suicide at age 27 in 2011.

Though Project 11, students are taught in age-appropriate ways how to increase self-awareness of social, emotional and physical wellness and increase their ability to connect with one another.

“It’s going over really well,” David Marvin said. “We’re looking to add programs in preschool and high school as well. It’s great to have something that can help kids every day because you never know when they are going to need it.”

David Marvin also made changes within his successful program this season. He chose not to hold practice on Thursday, Jan. 9 because they were no weekend games and “one more day of grinding doesn’t always bring success.” Moreover, he tried to find a small way to help his players with what he warned them in December was “the busiest years of their lives. They are under a tremendous amount of pressure to get good grades, do well in their sports and be good citizens.”

Before the season, Marvin’s players presented the coaching staff with Pura Vida bracelets in team colors of black and yellow, the latter also serving as the color of suicide awareness. Players also wear the bracelets. Both the Warriors’ girls’ and boys’ team have a “Max Foundation” sticker on the backs of their helmets.

The recent holiday season, David’s first since his son’s death, brought more painful reminders.

“I miss my hunting buddy,” he said. “Pretty bad.”

The Max Foundation opens a mental wellness dialogue in Warroad
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2: Rick Rypien & Project Eleven

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:40 am

2: Rick Rypien & Project Eleven

A powerful video:
Believe in Ryp
Watch at: ...

Resources Available:
The Max Foundation partnered with Project 11 to provide a curriculum and access to materials focusing on mental wellness for Warroad Public Schools students from kindergarten to the sixth-grade. You can view Project 11’s resources available at:

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3: "This needs to STOP"

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:54 pm

3: "This needs to STOP"

48 years old is too d*** young.

I didn’t even know who Greg Johnson was yesterday, but when I heard the former NHL player committed suicide, my head fell into my hands. Tragedy can do that to you, bringing you down even if the person wasn’t known to you. A universal a**-kicker of epic proportions.

Another hockey player taking his own life after his playing days were over creates a real sadness. In the hours since I heard the news, it hasn’t left my head so here I am at the keyboard, trying to come to grips with another human being turning out the light before it was time.

Johnson played for 12 years in the league, spending most of it with the Nashville Predators, whom he played in their inaugural season. He wasn’t what you would call a prolific talent, but he put up 145 goals and 369 points in his career, including 50 points in the 1998-99 season. He retired 13 years ago at the age of 34. Four months after his 48th birthday, Johnson is gone. A wife and two kids are left behind.

It’s the latest in a string of sudden hockey player deaths after the skates are hung up. The culprit seems to link them all together. The reports of CTE, aka chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which impacts behavior, has said to be a huge factor in a number of these deaths. Todd Ewen in 2015. Rick Rypien was just 27 when he passed away in his home. Bob Probert was only 45 years old when he died of heart disease, but was suffering from CTE, Derek Boogaard, aka “The Boogeyman,” was 28 when he died of a drug overdose. He was known to be suffering from CTE and depression, like Rypien.

Wade Belak was 35 when he died in a Toronto hotel room in 2011. It wasn’t officially ruled a suicide, but police treated it that way. Steve Montador was also 35 years old when he died, reportedly from the effects of CTE. There’s more, but you get the picture.

This needs to f****** stop. The NHL needs to not become the NFL and take better care of their players. When the ice time stops, some, if not many, need help adapting to a new way of life. They need benefits and treatment, essentially a voice to hear them. Every time I read about a suicide, I wonder if there was one damn voice they needed to hear in order to starve it off.

For once, I’d like some league to recognize CTE as a dangerous thing. The NHL has new concussion protocols, but they can do more, especially with older players. Get out there, go beyond the dollar, and help the people who made your league great. The vicious hits and relentless physicality takes a toll, because remember, they are human beings playing a violent game. Everybody loves the action, but far too few pay attention to the aftermath.

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps these are grown adults who should handle their business. There’s an argument there to present. I just don’t agree with it. A lot of companies help with their retirees after the career ends, so why not sports franchises? Why can’t leagues get in touch more?

Greg Johnson is dead, and maybe there are reasons outside of the game for that. I’d believe that if I didn’t see a laundry list of hockey players dying too young to mysterious causes or by their own hand.

Something needs to change. This needs to stop.

If you are having suicidal tendencies, call a friend, foe, or someone. Don’t turn off your own light. Reach out. Tough guys need a voice too. We all need someone.

Thanks for reading.

This Needs To STOP: Greg Johnson’s suicide is the latest tragedy to strike former NHL players
Read more: ... hl-players

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4: Everything's Not O.K.

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Jan 21, 2020 4:13 pm

4: Everything's Not O.K.

I’ve thought about death a lot over the past few years.

About dying. And what it might be like if I wasn’t around.

I’ve struggled a ton since I retired from hockey in 2011, and I’ve faced a bunch of different personal demons. But recently I’ve been unable to shake thoughts of….

Steve Montador.

Wade Belak.

Derek Boogaard.

Rick Rypien.

I knew those guys. They were real people to me.

They played the same game I did, and when it was all said and done … they were really just suffering, man. They struggled with depression and anxiety and substance abuse and just … pain. All of the things I’ve been dealing with. They went through some of the exact same stuff.

And now … I talk about them in the past tense. How they were my friends. And how they used to be my brothers.

They’re just … gone.

And the more I think about them, and how their lives ended up, the more worried I get. Because I see a lot of myself in those guys. I really do. And I often wonder if I might be next.

Whenever things get really bad, and I find myself thinking about death, it’s always in the context of release. Escaping the pain. And no longer being around to make the lives of those I love miserable. The idea of dying as a way out. And even though I definitely wouldn’t say death has been something that I’ve wanted — that I actually wanted to die — at the same time, when I’d hit those low points, it was like … I didn’t exactly not want it, either. In a lot of ways, as things got worse for me, death started to seem not so bad.

But the whole time, as thoughts of dying have ricocheted around in my head, there has always been another thought that I just couldn’t seem to shake. I’m not sure where it came from, or why it became so prominent for me, but it would keep breaking into my mind and kind of overtake all the really dark stuff. It goes something like this:

If you die now, without speaking up or saying anything … what good will that do?

I couldn’t get that out of my head — the idea that dying in silence would just be … I don’t know … such a waste. And when I couldn’t get beyond thoughts about how sad it would be to die in silence, I started thinking about trying to write something — trying to tell my story … the full story, warts and all — in the hopes that maybe what I say will help someone down the line.

Up to this point, I’ve shied away from doing that. I’m not one who really likes to talk. And I’m a person who has always tried to kind of do things on his own. But I’ve actually come to realize that’s all sort of just … bull****.

And I’ve gotten so tired of telling people that everything’s O.K.

I’ve lied for too long. I can’t lie anymore. Everything’s not O.K. Things have actually been pretty awful for me in a lot of ways. And I’m tired of the act.

So, you know … here we are.

That’s why I’ve finally decided to put pen to paper.

Like I said, I don’t want to die. But, you know, nothing is for certain. And I’m tired of keeping quiet. So for whatever it’s worth … here goes.

The story of my professional hockey career isn’t a pretty one. It’s not overflowing with highlight-reel goals or big-game hat tricks.

For the 11 years I played in the NHL, between 2000 and 2011, I was mainly known as a tough guy. I was a fighter, a thug — someone you wouldn’t want to mess with unless you were looking to get punched in the face.

But let me be more specific. You want to know how I played the game?

I tried to hurt people.

That’s what I was there for. A lot of people don’t want to hear that, but it’s the honest truth. So, yes, for instance, I would try to injure you if that was the difference between winning and losing a hockey game. I’d do whatever was asked of me. And I can tell you that, yes, coaches do actually sometimes tap you on the back and tell you to get out there on the ice and fight. Whether you want to believe it or not, it happens.

And I was always game — right there at a moment’s notice, ready to oblige.

I’d do it for my team, and, as weird as it sounds, for … the game. Because as best I could tell, being tough, and one guy knocking the snot out of another guy, and showing no mercy, well … those things had always been part of our sport.

I had it in my head that there was a specific way that hockey needed to be played. And there was a level honor to it, a certain pride that came along with kicking some ***.

I didn’t enjoy it, though. That’s for sure.

It’s what I did, and it paid the bills and allowed me to support my family. But I never loved it.

In truth, I absolutely hated to fight. I was scared to death of fighting. But what are you supposed to do when that’s your meal ticket, you know?

When you get paid to rough people up on the ice, and you’ve never really done anything for a living but play hockey … you don’t have all that much choice but to go out there and you do your job — no matter how afraid you are. But it definitely wasn’t easy for me.

On the nights before we played, I wouldn’t be able to get any rest. I’d be lying on a bed in a hotel room in Buffalo or Calgary or wherever, just kind of nervous and on edge … worried about what was going to happen to me out on the ice the next day.

Sleep? For me? That’s what sleeping pills were for.

And by the time the game rolled around, I’d usually be a total mess on the inside. My approach was always to pick fights with guys who were bigger than me, because I felt like in those cases I’d have nothing to lose. My thinking was, If I get lucky and win one … I look good. And if I get my ass kicked, I still look good because I’m the smaller guy — the underdog punching up.

Looking back on it now, that plan probably wasn’t the best approach because….

I got my ass kicked a lot. For years and years. I did some ***-kicking for sure, don’t get me wrong, but I also took my lumps. Sometimes it’s just not your night. Even the toughest guys in the league get pummeled on occasion. And I can tell you for a fact that all those punches definitely took their toll on me.

But there was so much more to it than that when it came to all the head trauma I experienced during my hockey career.

I can honestly say that it was the everyday hits during the course of the game — little blind-side shots and other things you wouldn’t even notice if you were watching on TV — that did the most damage over time.

The thing about hockey is that it’s a fast game. Things happen in the blink of an eye. People are flying around. And when you get your bell rung, it’s not like everything stops. You know what I mean? You just keep playing. That’s how it works.

And it wasn’t really my coaches who pushed me to be that way. I expected it from myself. It was the only way I knew — me basically doing what I thought I was supposed to do, and what I saw everyone else doing. Push through, ignore the pain, finish out the shift, all that s***. It was all second nature to me.

So I’m definitely not looking to blame my coaches or anyone else for all those head hits I took over the years and never really said anything about.

I did it to myself. No doubt.

But over time, all those hits to the head … they add up. And when you look back on it, honestly, it’s hard not to shake your head at how bad things actually were.

I mean, I had eight or 10 confirmed concussions when I played in the NHL, but who knows how many others I just simply played through? I’d bet I had actually more like 20 or 30 of them altogether, and even that might be a bit low.

But I just f****** toughed it out every time and kept things moving.

Later in my career, it got to a point where I started blacking out after I took a big hit to the head. I’d kind of just wake up in the trainer’s chair with no recollection of what had gone down in the game for the most part, or even things leading into the game. Then I’d go back and watch the tape and see myself doing all sorts of stuff out on the ice that wasn’t familiar. It was like watching someone else play in my body.

And it was scary.

But by that point, I honestly didn’t even care anymore. I was gone, man. Straight up. I didn’t feel anything. I was a dead man skating. My last few seasons, I was out there basically just flat-out killing myself for a paycheck.

During my final year in the league, I got hit three times, with three punches, and got knocked out all three times.

It was absolutely insane.

I was always hurting. And in order for me to carry on, I had to mask all that pain.

At one point during my career, I was taking so many painkillers and other drugs on a daily basis that I started to not even be able to recognize the person I had become.

Trainers always had painkillers. So I took them. Often. And it just escalated from there. Eventually I couldn’t get as many as I wanted, and so I started buying them from people on the street. Just more and more and more.

After a while, each day, and even entire chunks of the season, became almost like a daze. I was so medicated, and it began to get pretty frightening for me. So I decided that I needed to do something. I got my courage up, and got my PLEASE BAN ME together, and found a way to tell some people with the team I was playing for that I had a problem. It took everything I had in me to do that, but the response I received when I spoke to people was really uplifting. Everyone I talked to was so understanding. Every single person said they were there for me, and that they wanted to get me the help I needed.

A few weeks later, after the season had ended, I was back home in Nobleton, Ontario, at the old town hall, helping my folks set up for my sister’s buck and doe party before her wedding, when the phone rang.

One of my buddies had seen my name on the ESPN ticker.

“Nick, what the hell, man? I can’t believe it.”

I had no clue what he was talking about.

Turns out that less than a month after I’d gone to my team and asked for help, I got traded away to another city.

That was it for me.


Getting traded isn’t fun. Moving, upending your entire life, trying to figure out a new town … none of that s*** is any fun.

So I took the hint, you know what I mean?

From that point on, no matter how bad it got, I kept my d*** mouth shut about any problems I was having off the ice.

I asked for help, and I got shipped out. Lesson f****** learned.

I just clammed up after that and went back to getting punched in the face and smashed in the head and not saying anything about what it was like to deal with all the pain I was feeling.

I have a three-year-old son named Russell. And let me tell you … does that kid ever love hockey.

Loves watching it, loves talking about it, and loves taking the mini-stick out and whacking away at some pucks.

He wants to be like his dad, you know what I mean?

But I cannot, in good conscience, let him play the game of ice hockey until something changes and we start looking out for our players by taking the problems of head hits and concussions — and their potential impact on mental health — more seriously.

I’ve seen the damage that results from that stuff firsthand. I’ve lived it. And to say it’s been a struggle for me would be putting it way too lightly.

By the time I finally started getting help for everything I had been doing to try and ease the pain, I was already in my 30s. And at that point I was basically drinking and self-medicating and doing drugs nonstop. I stayed away from heroin, but other than that everything else was pretty much fair game.

I was a zombie, man. It’s not easy to admit that, but I really, really was.

And anytime I’d drink, I would almost always move on to drugs.

At the tail end of my career, I really, genuinely thought that I was going to die one night during the season. It’s hard to talk about, for sure, but … I had stayed up late doing an obscene amount of coke and things just got out of control. After a while my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. I couldn’t get it to slow down. Nothing I did worked. It was probably the most scared I’ve ever been in my life.

I was playing for the Flyers at the time, and we had a morning skate I needed to be at in a few hours. So it was either go to the hospital and check in without anyone noticing or getting word about what had gone down, and then somehow get my a** to practice in the morning … or tell the trainer what had happened and try to make a change.

Basically, it was: Keep putting on an act, or come clean.

You’d maybe think it would have been an easy decision. Like, You were about to die. Get help. What the f***? Stop living like this. Immediately. But I can tell you that, at the time, it was one of the hardest decisions I’d ever had to make. I agonized over it. Because I knew if I told the trainer, I was going to get in a ton of trouble.

But you know what, though? I f****** told the trainer.

Somehow I landed on the right call. And that was absolutely huge for me.

The Flyers and Paul Holmgren, who was the GM in Philly at the time, didn’t judge me or make me feel like an outcast when they found out. They sent me to rehab and pledged their support. They looked out for me. Even though I hadn’t been looking out for myself.

And to this day, I honestly believe Paul saved my life back then.

If I had been somewhere else, and they had just traded me away … I’d probably be dead.

Actually, there’s no doubt about it. I wouldn’t be sitting here today writing this thing if that had happened. That’s for sure.

I’d be six feet under.

The problem for me since then has been that rehab just hasn’t worked.

When the Flyers sent me, just a few months before I retired, I got off the painkillers and stopped using drugs. And eventually I even stopped drinking, too. But things just kept getting worse and worse for me mentally. A year and a half after I got sober, I was experiencing depression and anxiety worse than anything I’d ever felt before. I was sad all the time, and I’d constantly be on edge — sweating, shaking, nervous, having panic attacks. I’d call family members or friends and just be sobbing for no reason, and making no sense because I was in full-on panic mode. Then, on the day to day, it was almost like a constant state of having the wind knocked out of you. Like walking around your whole life unable to breathe.

I was completely clean, and looking healthy again, and at the same time … I was such a mess on the inside that I couldn’t even leave the house.

Since then, I’ve been to two more drug-and-alcohol rehab places. The NHL paid for me do that, and I commend the league for it. But … I just never got any relief. Those places work for lots of people, and I think that’s great. But with me, I could only get so far with them because they just never really addressed the root problems. They just dealt with what was apparent on the surface.

In some ways, I guess that’s not too surprising, because the types of issues I’ve been dealing with … I don’t know, they’re just not as obvious as some other medical problems. My ankle isn’t broken, you know? There’s no cast to sign. I can’t show my injury to you. And lots of times it’s hard to even describe it. So I can’t really even prove it to you, either.

Depression, anxiety, mental-health issues … that sort of stuff can seem invisible sometimes to those on the outside, but it’s worse than anything else I’ve ever dealt with. It can make you unbelievably sad to the point where you’re crying your eyes out. And then, the next day, you’ll just be so angry that you’re almost out of control. With me, there have been times when the anger has been so bad that I legitimately worried that I might hurt someone, or that I’d injure myself. But when family members, people I truly love and care about, would ask me what was going on, or why I was so mad … I wouldn’t really be able to tell them. I honestly wasn’t even sure.

And, like, AA meetings are supposed to somehow fix something so deep-seated?

That’s fantasy land stuff, right there.

But any time I reached out to the league, or to the players’ union doctors about mental-health issues, that’s all I’d hear. They basically just told me that I was an addict, and that I should sign up for some self-help groups — and that what I actually, really needed was to go do 90 meetings in 90 days.

Over time it became increasingly frustrating, because I tried everything they told me to do … and the depression and anxiety hadn’t gone away.

It’s just not as simple as going to some meetings. You know what I mean?

The kind of stuff I’m talking about here — the things that eventually became too much for those guys I played with who are no longer with us today — just runs so much deeper than some PLEASE BAN ME self-help meetings at the neighborhood YMCA.

In so many ways, my life after hockey has been a living h***.

And I can’t help but wonder how much the game — the sport itself … and all the collisions and head hits — had to do with that. I’m not a doctor, I haven’t gone to medical school and studied exactly how the brain is affected by repetitive forceful trauma. But I can’t help but wonder about the damage I did to myself by playing this sport.

It’s tough to think about sometimes, to be honest, because I love the game of hockey. Literally all I wanted to do in life — from the time I was super little and just trying to keep my balance out on the frozen pond in the backyard — was play in the NHL.

But now, sitting here today, and living with all this s*** … all I can think about is whether it was worth it.

When I sit back and really think about it honestly, I usually come to the conclusion that hockey hasn’t been a good thing for me overall. And the money? Well, that can only get you so far, you know what I mean? And it certainly can’t fix your brain.

It can’t bring back time lost with your children or make you stop yelling at people you love or … stop you from feeling like you want to cry all the time.

It just can’t do those things. So you end up totally stuck.

I mean, life at this point for me … it’s a constant struggle. This past winter, for instance, I was depressed for two months straight. It just got worse and worse, to the point where I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I just woke up one morning and felt like I couldn’t even get out of bed.

And it’s times like that when those thoughts of death creep in.

It just got really dark for me. And it was just nonstop. All day. All night.

Everything was dark.

At one point, I was supposed to make a trip to visit my two older daughters in California for the holidays, but I couldn’t even leave the house. I didn’t get there. I missed out on seeing them.

Then I’m home with my two little ones — my son, and my five-year-old daughter — and it was just impossible to shield them from the pain I was feeling. They’d see me break down and cry on a daily basis. And at times I began to feel like me being around wasn’t good for them, or that I wasn’t improving their lives in any way. And that story just played out in my head to the point where it really become kind of dangerous and scary.

Like: Would those kids be better off without me around?

It was awful, and that’s the type of stuff that I’ve been going through. That’s my reality. And no sport, no matter how wonderful, is worth having to struggle in that way.

I definitely wouldn’t have played for as long as I did had I known that this was how things were going to turn out for me. At the time, I didn’t think too far down the line. But I can say this much for the record right here and now….

I honestly wish I would’ve retired when I was 26 or 27, even before I won a Stanley Cup. And I wish I could go back to that time and have a redo.

They can scratch my name off that cup, and I’d hand my ring back in right now if I could go back and make it so that I wouldn’t have had to experience all this pain and sorrow and anger and sadness.

I’d make that tradeoff in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, I don’t own a time machine, you know?

So I can only plow ahead. And my story actually isn’t all bad. I’m happy to say that I’m actually more hopeful and optimistic right now, at this very moment, than I’ve been in years.

Part of that has to do with being able to get my story out there like this. But there are also other reasons. After that really rough patch over the holidays, I finally said enough is enough and went to see a psychologist.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but it turned out to be really wonderful. He was the first doctor who I genuinely felt had ever listened to me. And he seemed like a true partner for me in my efforts to get better — in trying to really solve the root problems, rather than just offer up the same old treatments.

He didn’t prescribe any drugs or tell me to enter a 12-step program. He just wanted to talk and listen and help.

Imagine that, right?

The other thing that has me hopeful these days is that I linked up with my good friend Daniel Carcillo, and he got me enrolled in a program at the Plasticity Brain Center down in Orlando.

They focus on pinpointing the areas of the brain and body that may be causing problems and then creating a focused, individualized plan to address whatever it is that appears to be going on. It’s just a whole different way of looking at mental health issues, and it was the most straightforward and easiest and least-invasive treatment I’ve ever tried.

The more traditional approaches just weren’t helping. So I’m open to new and innovative treatments, and I truly believe this new way is working for me.

When I got there, I told the doctors that I’ve felt like I had this weight on the right side of my head for a while now, and that it just seems to get heavier and heavier. So they ran a bunch of tests and found that my right eye was not focusing properly. It was working three times slower than my left. That was resulting in headaches and definitely contributed to me feeling tired all the time.

They also told me that my inner ear was causing some of my problems, and gave me a bunch of exercises to help address that issue.

Being able to just talk to someone with an open mind, and then finding some treatment options that were better suited to what’s going on with me, have allowed me to finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Who knows what’s in the cards for me going forward, but I really do feel like I might be on the right path.

I feel like I can get better now.

At the end of the day, I really just want to get fully healthy and make my family proud of me and do all I can to help things get better when it comes to the mental-health side of hockey.

That would be more than enough for me.

Look, I’m no angel. I’ve done some monumentally stupid things in my life, and I’ve not been the best person in the world on many occasions. But that doesn’t mean that my story should just be swept aside, or that how the NHL is handling head hits and concussions and mental-health issues is appropriate.

At this point in my life, I believe that there are other alternatives out there, in terms of diagnosis and treatment, that the league is avoiding for the simple reason that they think it’s going to hurt the game if we find out the truth about the damage being done to players’ brains from head hits.

Well, I have no patience for that s*** anymore. I’m so beyond that. This isn’t some movie where bad stuff keeps happening to fictional characters and then eventually everything turns out O.K. in the end.

This is real life. As real as it gets. Guys are suffering. In some cases, people are dying.

And it simply doesn’t have to be like that.

I mean, it already shouldn’t be like that, but it for sure doesn’t need to be like that going forward. You know what I mean?

Yes, ours is a physical, violent sport. And it may be the case that we cannot rid hockey of that violence and danger altogether. But at the very least let’s deal with the issues that arise as a result of that. Deal with the head trauma. Deal with the concussions. And deal with all of the ramifications that those things bring about.

Stop telling people the world is flat and just do the right thing. Instead of ignoring the damage that occurs to the brain when you get your bell rung out on the ice, let’s own up to it and get guys the help they need. Not just after they retire, but while they’re playing the game.

Let’s start addressing the problem. Let’s look closely at the brain — and how our sport as we currently play it might be harmful to the brain — and begin making things right.

Enough is f******g enough already.

I’ve been a company man for too long at this point. I’ve sat back and deteriorated, day after day, month after month, year after year … and I’ve never said a word. Never badmouthed the league. Even on my darkest days, when things were as bleak as they could get.

But I realize now that I can’t go on that way anymore. I need to speak up about what’s been happening to me and lend support to others who are struggling.

Simply put: Something has to change sooner rather than later.

And I truly believe it’s going to need to be the superstars of the game driving things. As much as I’d like to believe I have the power to change the world, the reality is that no one in power cares about my complaints. No one’s gonna change league policy because me and Carcillo are pissed.

But the guys who make big bucks for the teams … when they’re not happy and speak out, that’s when maybe something will change. If things could bubble up in that way, with leadership from our game’s most talented players, that would really have the potential to move the needle.

And look, I get it. Believe me. I know that’s asking a lot, and that it’s not easy to speak out on a controversial topic when you’re at the pinnacle of the sport. Hell, I’ve seen the way trolls online — and even some former NHL players — go at Daniel at Twitter because he’s trying to bring change to the game. That’s no fun.

But at the same time, the potential to make a difference right now is just so great. It’s sitting out there for guys, just waiting for someone to grab hold of and initiate some conversations that will end up saving people’s lives. And at the end of the day, that, more than anything, will be the best thing for this sport. Because this stuff isn’t going away anytime soon, and hockey can either be on the right side of this, or on the wrong side.

With each day that goes by without any real, decisive action, this league’s legacy gets worse and worse.

For me individually, nothing is guaranteed at this point. I’ve still got lots of issues to try and fight through, and every day presents new challenges. But one thing I know for certain is that I’m done lying and pretending that everything’s O.K., because bottling things up like I had been for all those years … that’s like walking around as a ticking time bomb.

And it’s no way to live.

Those days are over for me now. And I feel good knowing that I have spoken out and that I’m on the right side of this issue. I’m fully ready to do all I can to help find a way to fix things when it comes to how hockey treats head trauma and mental-health issues.

I have a mission now. A purpose.

And that feels really good.

Sharing my story with the world is just the beginning.

My life, I’m telling you right now, will not end up being a waste.

Everything's Not O.K.
See the photos and read more at: ... ngs-not-ok

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fourth-annual Concussion Awareness Week, running from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25, 2020

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 1:45 pm

fourth-annual Concussion Awareness Week, running from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25, 2020

The Merrimack College women’s ice hockey team is supporting the Headway Foundation and the fourth-annual Concussion Awareness Week, running from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25, 2020.

The Headway Foundation’s mission is to shift concussion culture and promote athletes reporting of symptoms to change the narrative of what it means to be a strong athlete, or “The New Tough” as part of the 2020 Concussion Awareness Week campaign.

The Warriors social media channels, including on Instagram at @Merrimack_WIH and on Twitter at @MerrimackWIH will raise awareness and promote Headway’s ideals of promoting brain health and patience in concussion recovery. The objective of the week is to encourage peer-to-peer support and discussion on the importance of brain health and safety as athletes. Forwards Courtney Maud and Mikyla Grant-Mentis are serving as the team’s representative for this important initiative.

Merrimack joins hockey players from across conferences and genders, including the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference, ECAC Hockey and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in supporting this cause. We encourage all members of the Merrimack community to support the Headway Foundation and learn more about the New Tough campaign. To donate, please visit:

About the New Tough Campaign

The center for Disease Control Reports that approximately 69% of student-athletes neglect to report possible concussion symptoms. New Tough is a campaign that addresses this by refraining from, and broadening an athlete’s definition of toughness. It challenges athletes to handle concussion properly by encouraging symptom reporting, offering avenues for teammates to support each other and promoting safe play. Read more here:

About the Headway Foundation

Headway Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit addressing sports concussions. It was founded by three former ECAC Hockey student-athletes who endured concussions during collegiate play – Paige Decker (Yale Women’s Hockey ’14), Josephine Pucci (Harvard Women’s Hockey ’15 and Sochi Olympian) and Danny Otto (Yale Men’s Hockey ’12). To learn more about the Headway Foundation, visit their website at

Women’s Ice Hockey Participating in Concussion Awareness Week ... ness-week/

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Re: concussions

Post by MNHockeyFan » Wed Jan 22, 2020 6:44 pm

So unfortunate, but no doubt the right decision. :(

Gulstene Announces Retirement from Hockey ... ockey.aspx

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Gophers women's hockey goalie Alex Gulstene retires because of concussion symptoms

Post by greybeard58 » Sat Jan 25, 2020 1:36 pm

2 more articles
Gophers women's hockey goalie Alex Gulstene retires because of concussion symptoms
JANUARY 23, 2020 — 12:11AM

Alex Gulstene, the top goalie on the Gophers women’s hockey team last season, has retired from the sport because of lingering concussion symptoms from an injury suffered earlier this season.
“My time as a hockey player at the University of Minnesota meant a lot to me,” the junior from Vancouver, British Columbia, said in a statement the team released Wednesday. “Going in, I didn’t know what to expect, but coming out, I definitely grew a family here. All of the support I’ve received throughout my injury and during my career here has been amazing.
“There were several factors that went into my decision to step away from hockey, but the importance of my personal health, including both my mental health and physical health, was the main deciding factor.”
Gulstene started Minnesota’s first game this season, making six saves in the first period of a 2-0 season-opening win over Colgate. She left the game after the first period and has not played since.
Last season she was 20-3 with a 1.69 goals-against average — second in the WCHA and fifth in the nation — and a .921 save percentage.
The No. 2 Gophers (20-2-3, 12-2-2 WCHA) have relied on senior Sydney Scobee, a backup last season, in the nets; she has started every game since the season opener.
Gulstene will remain a student at the university.
Gopher women's hockey goalie Alex Gulstene retires ... 567213942/

Alex Gulstene Retires From Hockey

The University of Minnesota women’s hockey team announced on Wednesday that junior goalie Alex Gulstene has left the team and retired from hockey as a result of concussion symptoms.

Gulstene started Minnesota’s first game of the season against Colgate, but left the game after the first period and has not returned since.

She was expected to split time in net this season with senior goalie Sydney Scobee, with whom Gulstene split goaltending duties last season. Scobee has played well in her absence, posting a .939 save percentage. It does leave a bit of a hole in Minnesota’s future plans, however, with Scobee graduating after this season and Minnesota’s goalie of the future, Skylar Vetter, not joining Minnesota until the 2021-2022 season. Minnesota has a talented freshman in Makayla Pahl, but the loss of Gulstene certainly leaves them much thinner at a key position.

Gulstene’s career, sadly, ends with a what-if. It can’t be overstated how brilliant she was in leading Team USA to gold medals as the starting goalie at the 2016 and 2017 Women’s World U18s. She made 19 stops in the 2016 gold medal game, helping the US to a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory over Canada in Canada. The following year, she shut down a Canadian team with the likes of Daryl Watts, Emma Maltais, and Amy Potomak in a 3-1 victory, the only US medal round game to not require overtime in the past six years. But her health and well-being is the first priority and hopefully Gulstene can reach the same levels of success in her next venture.

Alex Gulstene Retires From Hockey ... rom-hockey

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Max Foundation Awareness Night February 3

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Jan 30, 2020 3:17 pm

Max Foundation Awareness Night February 3

Save the date, February 3rd, to support The Max Foundation & to cheer on the Lady Warriors as they take on Roseau!

50/50 Raffle
Chuck A Puck
Winnipeg Jets Ticket Give Away
Zach Parise Jersey Raffle
Max Foundation Clothing Sales
Online Auction for Gigi Marvin 20th Anniversary jersey

All proceeds go the the Max Foundation

Live Your Best Life
Come out to the Gardens Arena February 3 to support the Max Foundation and the Lady Warriors as they take on the Rams.
5:30 JV, 7:30 Varsity

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5: "Here’s the documentary that Gary Bettman doesn’t want you to see"

Post by greybeard58 » Mon Feb 03, 2020 3:28 pm

5: "Here’s the documentary that Gary Bettman doesn’t want you to see"

Sports Agent/Lawyer Allan Walsh: "Here’s the documentary by the Fifth Estate that Gary Bettman doesn’t want you to see. This is an honest, in-depth look at NHL players with traumatic brain injuries and the impact on their families. A group of wives are fighting back.”

Behind the facade of glamour and wealth, the wives of some retired hockey enforcers are in their own fierce fight. They want the NHL to acknowledge that there's a link between fights, and head injuries on the ice and long-term effects like degenerative brain disease. Women like Jennifer Belak and Kelli Ewen whose husbands Wade Belak and Todd Ewen took their own lives are part of that fight but so too is Ela Carcillo. She is married to recently retired player Daniel Carcillo who says he wonders if he will become one of the sad statistics.

Hockey Fight: Wives Reveal The Cost of Concussions - The Fifth Estate
Watch at: ... e=emb_logo

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how does this shift in brain patterns impact the brain's continued development?

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Feb 04, 2020 11:50 am

how does this shift in brain patterns impact the brain's continued development?

A new study is the first to show how information is rerouted in the brain following concussion in adolescents.

It’s known that after a brain injury the number of connections in the brain increases and the flow of information changes. But until now, it was unclear exactly how the information flow was being altered post-concussion.

“The kids we studied were all within one week of having a concussion and they’d only ever had one concussion, and even so we could see that the way their brain sends information had totally changed,” says Dr. Naznin Virji-Babul, an associate professor in the faculty of medicine’s department of physical therapy, a Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health researcher and lead on the paper. “This is the first time we’ve actually been able to see these changes which is what makes this study so exciting.”

The team looked at 32 healthy adolescent athletes who had never had a concussion and compared them to adolescent athletes who were one-week post-concussion, using a powerful new method originating in statistical physics that measures the flow of information between different regions of the brain. The rate of information flow allowed the team to capture interaction patterns in the brain and decipher how these interactions differed between healthy and concussed individuals

The researchers found four alternative pathways by which the brain was redirecting information in the concussed group compared to the control group, suggesting that these detour pathways were a consequence of prior connections being disrupted by concussion.

The study has many future implications, one of which is the potential to eventually aid in concussion diagnosis. Adolescents in the study who did have a concussion displayed a wide range of symptoms, some more severe than others. Despite this, the rewiring of each of their brains looked very similar, suggesting that symptoms are unrelated to what’s happening in the brain post-concussion.

“Right now, one of the big issues in concussion is we don’t have a diagnostic test,” says Dr. Virji-Babul. “Concussion is diagnosed very subjectively based on symptoms and we don’t really have a gold standard, so this kind of work will be helpful in developing an objective diagnostic test where we can show there have been changes in neural connections.”

Another aspect of the study’s diagnostic potential is its simplicity—adolescents sat with their eyes closed for five minutes while their brain activity was being recorded, and no tasks or other behavioural tests were done.

“This kind of work will be helpful in developing an objective diagnostic test where we can show there have been changes in neural connections,” Dr. Naznin Virji-Babul

This work could also aid in intervention and treatment. Historically, physicians believed resting in a dark room was the best way to treat concussion. But recent research from Dr. Virji-Babul and others has shown that extensive rest actually prolongs recovery, whereas exercise facilitates it.

“If we could use the technique applied in this study to tell how severe a concussion is and what’s happening to the brain’s flow of information and wiring when someone is exercising post-concussion, we could use that as evidence for best practices around intervention and treatment,” says Dr. Virji-Babul.

There are still many unanswered questions around concussion—ones that need answers, considering concussion makes up to 90 per cent of all traumatic brain injuries worldwide, and that adolescent brains are still developing and are more susceptible to injury.

“The important question that comes out of this work is whether the detour pathways established by the brain post-concussion are just as good as the ones that existed previously” says Dr. Virji-Babul. “My guess is probably not. The effects of having different pathways and increased connections probably means the brain is having to work harder, which we’ve seen reflected in some of our other work where things like attention and shifting focus from one thing to another are affected.”

Another important aspect will be following up with the cohort in this study to see what their brain looks like in a year from now, to determine whether the new brain connections and pathways remain the same, or if they’ve reverted back to their pre-concussion state. More studies also need to be done to determine the long-term implications of brain development and brain health in adolescents with concussion.

“We know this injury has caused some kind of shift in brain patterns, but what does this mean for how the brain will continue to develop?” says Dr. Virji-Babul. “Will it continue to use a totally different pathway? These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking moving forward.”

New study first to show rerouting patterns in the brain post-concussion
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Re: concussions

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Feb 06, 2020 12:38 am

Saturday's game devoted to challenging "the stigma of youth mental illness"

Wear purple on Saturday afternoon for Cornell’s 8th annual Do It For Daron game, which brings St. Lawrence to town to wrap up a home weekend for Cornell women’s hockey.

Before facing the Saints at 3 pm Saturday, Cornell’s women have a 6 pm tilt against the Clarkson Golden Knights on Friday in a game that will focus on the Headway Foundation’s safe sports culture and concussion awareness efforts.

Do It For Daron (DIFD) is a Big Red family cause, founded by the family and friends of Big Red alum Morgan Richardson’s sister Daron, who died by suicide as a young teen. The organization created a dialogue that challenges the stigma of youth mental illness, and Cornell’s women have skated with purple laces, purple DIFD hearts on their helmets, and even limited-edition purple-trim jerseys that were auctioned off after a previous season’s DIFD game.

“DIFD has been inspiring hope in children and teens battling mental health by raising awareness and initiating tough conversation,” says Cornell hockey alum Diana Buckley. The team is asking fans to donate to EARS, Cornell’s Empathy, Assistance, and Referral Service.

The Big Red enters the weekend ranked fourth in the nation, with an 18-1-2 record, and undefeated in the ECAC with a 12-0-2 conference season to date. Clarkson arrives 18-4-4, 9-3-2 in ECAC play, and St. Lawrence hits Colgate today with a 10-10-5 overall record, 5-6-2 in conference play.

Cornell swept Colgate with a pair of shutouts in a home-and-home series last weekend, marking junior goalie Lindsay Browning’s seventh and eighth shutouts on the season. In 21 games, Browning has 374 saves for a .961 save percentage. After hosting this weekend’s north country opponents, the Red returns to the road to face Harvard next Friday and Dartmouth next Saturday.

Home weekend for Cornell women’s hockey features annual Headway and DIFD games
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Lauren Spear returns after missing 13 games with a concussion

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Feb 06, 2020 7:57 am

Lauren Spear returns after missing 13 games with a concussion

With a playoff bracket that will feature 20-win Holy Family Catholic, and two of the top programs in the state in Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, the stretch run for Chaska/Chanhassen may prove to be in their favor.

The Storm Hawks won its sixth game in the last eight contests, a 5-0 shutout of Bloomington Jefferson Feb. 1 at Chaska Community Center.

It was the second shutout of the season, the first since Nov. 29, 2019.

It was the final home game for seniors Abby Nelson and Olivia Rinzel on the varsity team. Chaska/Chanhassen (12-10-2) finished the Metro West Conference schedule with a 6-2 record, second to Benilde-St. Margaret.

“It was awesome to get the shutout for Olivia,” Storm Hawks junior Jordyn Perlich said. “It was a nice way to end her regular season and for our team to end the season with a winning record.”

It was Perlich who continued to shine for Chaska/Chanhassen, scoring two goals as the Storm Hawks found the net twice in each of the first two periods.

Perlich, who registered eight goals and 18 points as sophomore, now is second on the team with 15 goals and 30 points. She had seven goals in the last five contests.

She credited “hard work, dedication and great teammates” for the growth in her game this season.

Among those teammates is linemate Katelyn Roberts, a third-year varsity player. The sophomore is team leader in goals (18), assists (22) and points (40).

“Katelyn and I play an aggressive style game. We both create turnovers by back checking, we know where each other will be on the ice and just work very good together. We have really got to know each other on and off the ice,” Perlich said of the line connection.

Roberts, Brooke Willier and Elisabeth Gerebi added goals for Chaska/Chanhassen against Bloomington Jefferson with Rinzel making 15 saves in the regular season finale.

Next up is the Section 2AA quarterfinal on Friday, Feb. 7. The Storm Hawks travel to Shakopee in a 4-5 match-up at 7 p.m. Chaska/Chanhassen is the five seed despite a 7-3 win over the Sabers in January.

The Sabers have one just more victory than the Storm Hawks, though have beat Holy Family Catholic, one of only five teams to do so this season.

“It would be nice to play on our home ice, but I know our confidence will be strong no matter where we play them,” Perlich said.

Tight contests in recent years with Shakopee, usually low-scoring, one-goal games, the Jan. 2 game was a bit different.

The Storm Hawks put up five goals in the first period, getting a hat trick from Gerebi. Chaska/Chanhassen was also 2-for-2 on the power play.

“The victory we had over them earlier in the year wasn’t our typical game with them. ... They will be tough, but we will just have to play our game,” Perlich said.

Shakopee won four of the last five games to end the regular season, including victories over Eastview, Lakeville North and Eagan over an eight-day stretch.

Chaska/Chanhassen, winless in the last two playoff seasons, last won a Section 2AA quarterfinal in 2017 against Prior Lake.

Clinging to a one-goal lead into the third period, back-to-back goals 33 seconds apart lifted Chaska/Chanhassen to a 4-1 win over Minneapolis at Chaska Community Center Jan. 28.

Perlich and Gerebi scored at 3:44 and 4:17 of the final period for the 3-0 lead. Lauren Spear, who missed 13 games with an injury, netted her first goal since Nov. 22 to open the scoring in the first period.

Perlich finished the scoring with an empty-net goal with 19 seconds left. Rinzel stopped 26-of-27 shots, including 14 in the third period.

Road playoff game a bit of a surprise
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"Getting off to a late start here against Dodge County. Making her Stormhawk Girls Varsity debut is Baillie Whalen. Lauren Spear makes her return from a concussion. Hopefully getting started in about 20 minutes." ... 1717241856

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Concussions and Brain Health

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:08 pm

Concussions and Brain Health

Concussions are a common but enigmatic brain injury. They can happen to anyone, affect individuals vastly differently, and leave no visible mark on the brain. The symptoms of a concussion can be easily mistaken for other conditions and, in some cases, are difficult or even impossible to detect. Concussions have been in the medical lexicon for thousands of years, but their mechanisms of action and long-term health effects are still poorly understood. There is currently no evidence-based treatment for concussions other than rest and their medical management is largely guided by individual expert opinion, which varies considerably. But an emerging body of systematic research, bolstered by increasingly vocal testimony from athletes and other groups at high risk for concussions, is starting to paint a clearer picture of how these injuries work and their potentially serious, lasting consequences.

What a concussion is and isn’t
• Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a broad category of physical injuries to the brain, including penetrating head injuries such as gunshots or knife wounds, and nonpenetrating traumas ranging from concussions, to cerebral contusions (brain bruising), axonal damage (tearing of nerve fibers), intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding inside the skull), and skull fractures.
• A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) – specifically, a nonpenetrating one that temporarily alters brain function.
• Concussions usually do not involve easily detectable structural damage to the brain. Instead, they cause injury at the cellular level, affecting the activity, connections, and supporting cells of the neurons responsible for brain-based functions.
• Because of this cell-level impact, concussions are very difficult to detect even using standard computer tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies, which can only reliably show injury at larger scales.
• Sophisticated variants of MRI, such as diffusion tensor imaging, can sometimes detect certain concussion-related abnormalities, but not reliably.

Concussion causes and symptoms
• The brain is surrounded within the skull by a layer of cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions the brain and protects it during normal day-to-day movement.
• Concussions occur when rapid movement of the head or body causes the brain to bounce against, twist, or stretch inside the skull.
• The rapid movements that cause concussions are usually triggered by direct blows, forceful shakes, rotations, or severe jolts of the head. These can occur in a variety of situations, the most common being falls, motor vehicle accidents, physical assaults, and sports- or recreation-related impacts.
• The symptoms and effects of a concussion vary widely from person to person:
• Most heal quickly (in days to weeks), with minimal or no noticeable symptoms.
• Some cause temporary symptoms, such as loss of consciousness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, memory problems, sleep changes, or mood changes.
• These post-concussive symptoms usually last for a period of days to weeks but can sometimes persist for several months or even years.
• Repeat injuries can lead to longer-term cognitive health effects and severe brain damage.
• A repeat concussion sustained too soon before a prior injury has fully healed is especially dangerous because it can cause life-threatening brain swelling. This condition is called second-impact syndrome and is rare, but can be fatal.

Incidence in the United States
• In 2013, close to 3 million TBI-related emergency-room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths occurred in the United States. Most of these involved concussions.
• Because concussions are difficult to diagnose and many people do not recognize or notice their symptoms, the true prevalence is likely far higher than accounted for by hospital-related statistics.
• Estimates vary, but surveys suggest that as many as half of all concussions go undetected or unreported.

Vulnerable groups
• Certain populations are at higher risk for this injury and related complications, including:
• athletes and people who engage in high-contact or high-speed recreational activities, particularly children who play football;
• military members who engage in combat, are exposed to explosive blasts, or who fire heavy weapons close to the head;
• very young or nonverbal children, who may be unable to recognize and communicate their symptoms;
• elderly individuals, especially those taking blood thinners, who may be vulnerable to severe TBI-related complications such as brain bleeding; and
• women. The overall incidence of concussions is higher in U.S. males than females, but this is due largely to their disproportionate participation in high-contact sports. On an activity-by-activity basis, females generally suffer concussions at a higher rate than men, report more-severe symptoms, and experience slower recovery. Possible drivers of these gender differences are currently being researched and include:
• hormonal differences at the time of impact;
• physiological differences in shape, angle, and strength of the neck, and
• differences in the likelihood of reporting symptoms or a suspected injury.

The challenge of diagnosis
• There is no single test to diagnose a concussion with certainty. In fact, most physical and cognitive exams, blood tests, and brain scans following a suspected injury yield normal results.
• Because of this, doctors typically diagnose concussions clinically, based on a patient’s history and self-reported symptoms.
• The Glasgow Coma Scale and other assessment tools are used by some physicians to help diagnose and grade TBI severity. These methods use a point system to score patient-responsiveness to motor, verbal, and visual stimuli.
• Physicians can also conduct neurological exams to evaluate balance, vision, and hearing following a suspected concussion, as well as cognition tests to assess memory and concentration.
• For patients presenting severe acute symptoms such as intense vomiting or prolonged disorientation, CT and MRI imaging is sometimes used to rule out serious complications such as brain bleeding – but these scans cannot diagnose a concussion on its own.

Recovering from a concussion
• Currently, the only evidence-based treatment protocol for a concussion is near-term rest.
• Clinical studies generally support the recovery benefits of an initial rest period of 24 to 48 hours after a concussive episode, followed by gradual reintroduction of physical activity.
• Some animal studies suggest that rest may be important for the recovery process because of the significant energy required to heal injured nerve fibers in the brain, particularly when there is inflammation or reduced blood flow.
• While consensus recommendations for concussion management are beginning to emerge in certain injury landscapes (e.g., high-school sports), the medical community overall lacks standardized, methodically derived protocols for treatment of these injuries.

Long-term health impacts – what scientists now know
• It was observed in the 1920s that professional boxers would often begin to act “punch drunk” after being in the sport for a period of time.
• It was intuitively understood that repeat blows to the head could be problematic, but there was no body of scientific evidence to characterize health effects beyond the immediate injury itself.
• It wasn’t until the last decade or so, thanks in large part to increased participation of athletes in TBI research, that scientists were first able to describe and present solid evidence for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a progressive neurodegenerative disease resulting from repetitive blows to the head over a number of years.
• Since then, a growing body of research has confirmed that physical head injuries, including concussions, can actually lead to progressive, irreversible diseases of the brain.
• In 2017, a seminal study of over 100 donated brains from deceased American football players (most of whom displayed cognitive decline before death) found that nearly all the specimens had signs of significant CTE – in the form of protein clumps spread throughout the brain.
• Scientists now know that over time, as CTE advances, these clumps build up and kill healthy brain cells, particularly in the deepest crevices of the brain’s surface. This leads to progressive cognitive problems such as memory loss, depression, confusion, impulse control issues, and dementia.
• Several recent studies have also uncovered the important role of sub-concussive impacts in the development of CTE. These more modest hits to the head lightly jostle the brain, but are not severe enough to alter brain function following impact and are completely asymptomatic.
• Research suggests that even these gentler bumps and knocks to the head can be cumulatively damaging when sustained repeatedly over time.
• Some recent studies have also suggested that CTE could be tied to elevated risk for other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Other recent research suggests that even a single traumatic brain injury could increase a person's risk for Parkinson's disease. But these links have yet to be definitively confirmed.

Promising advances
• TBI Blood Test. In early 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first commercial diagnostic blood test for head injury. It measures specific proteins in blood that are usually found at elevated levels following injuries that cause damage to nerves and brain cells. Clinical trials showed that, when negative, the test indicates with high accuracy that no CT-detectable lesion exists—potentially precluding the need for such imaging studies. The test itself cannot detect a concussion but shows promise as a triaging tool to help rule out the need for expensive brain scans following a suspected injury. The test is approved for use in adults only.
• In-vivo CTE Scanning. Currently, CTE can be reliably diagnosed only after death, by analyzing post-mortem brain specimens. One recent study suggests there may be certain discernable patterns in the CTE-afflicted brain that are detectable by positron emission tomography (PET) scan – but more research is needed. The ability to scan for and diagnose CTE in living people would significantly expand research opportunities for new treatments.
• CTE Prevention Pills. Scientists are also researching the possibility of oral medications that could slow the spread of CTE in the brain by binding to and destroying the protein build-up that is the hallmark of the disease. Research on the effectiveness of such a pill and other medications focused on reversing specific CTE symptoms, such as memory loss, is currently being conducted on rodents.
• Helmet Technology. Various efforts are underway to engineer new models of athletic helmets and mouthpieces that could help signal or protect against head trauma. Technologies being explored include surface polymer films that light up when hit with sufficient force, flexible materials that absorb impact forces, and layered, precision-fit models that minimize rotational forces on the head.
• Policy Measures. Given the high incidence of this injury among voluntary participants in high-impact sports, the concussion problem will likely not be solved by science and technology alone. Increasing policy-based efforts are underway within school and sports communities to help address the problem via concussion-education programs and new safety protocols.

SciLine is an independent, nonpartisan, philanthropically supported service hosted by the nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). For more information visit our About SciLine page or write to us at

Concussions and Brain Health
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"another reminder of the concussion risks"

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:40 pm

"another reminder of the concussion risks"

Arlan: In one other bit of news before we move on to other teams, Minnesota junior goaltender Alex Gulstene announced her retirement from hockey this week due to lingering symptoms of a concussion that limited her game action to the first period of the season. This is another reminder of the concussion risks that come with the sport that we love. In the previous decade both Minnesota and Wisconsin had seasons where multiple players were dealing with concussions. Concussions prevented both Alyssa Grogan and Ashley Stenerson from competing in Minnesota’s championship season in 2011-12, while Wisconsin had to deal with the loss of both Brittany Ammerman and Stefanie McKeough to concussions the following season.

Wednesday Women: Trying to quantify which team should be second in the polls ... the-polls/

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“There are a lot of other players out there like Mark.”

Post by greybeard58 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 8:12 pm

“There are a lot of other players out there like Mark.”

Forty years ago, Mark Pavelich played a crucial role in the U.S. hockey team’s triumph over the Russians. Was there a steep cost for his lifetime on the ice?

He walks into the courtroom, hands cuffed at his waist, an armed deputy in a flak jacket at his side. He wears a white-and-gray striped jumpsuit with “Lake Co. Jail” in large red letters on the back. Short with neatly combed hair, a trimmed gray beard and brown plastic-rimmed glasses, he does not glance at his 87-year-old mother in the front row or at his sister beside her, or his brother or two cousins and a friend. He sits at a small table beside his attorney and faces the judge.

This does not look like someone who beat his neighbor so badly with a metal bar in August that the man was hospitalized with two cracked ribs, a bruised kidney, a fractured vertebra, and welts over his legs, arms and back. Nor does he look like the American hero who set up the goal that beat the Soviets in the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”

The judge asks his name. “Mark Thomas Pavelich,” he replies softly. At this hearing today, Nov. 25, 2019, in the Cook County District Court in Grand Marais, Minn., Judge Michael Cuzzo will consider whether Mark Pavelich is mentally ill and dangerous.

Three months earlier, on Aug. 15, Pavelich and his neighbor Jim Miller spent the day on Deeryard Lake behind their houses fishing for walleye, as they had in the past. Only this time, Pavelich accused Miller of spiking his beer and then attacked him. Sheriff’s deputies found the three-foot metal bar outside Pavelich’s house. Inside, they found a shotgun — tucked under a bed — with its stock shortened and the serial number scratched off.

They arrested Pavelich and charged him with four felonies: assault with a dangerous weapon, assault causing bodily harm, possession of a shotgun shorter than the legal limit, and possession of a firearm without a serial number. A court-appointed psychologist concluded he was not competent to stand trial; Cuzzo agreed and suspended the charges for three years. The psychologist believes he presents an imminent risk of serious danger to others. After Pavelich’s attorney requested a second opinion, a second psychologist confirmed the first’s findings. Now, the question before Cuzzo at the November hearing is whether Pavelich should be confined to a secure mental health facility.

The 61-year-old hockey star’s life has long been a strange saga, yet friends and relatives do not believe he was destined for violence. His older sister, Jean Gevik, calls her brother a “gentle soul.” More than one friend observed to me that he “does not have a mean bone in his body.” Lou Vairo, director of special projects for USA Hockey, who has known Pavelich for 45 years, echoes many, saying, “This is not the person I know.”

Both court-appointed psychologists believe that the former hockey player suffers from a neurocognitive disorder. The first suggested that the underlying culprit was post-traumatic stress from life trauma, while the second suggested that his disorder was linked to “traumatic brain injury.” The second theory is shared by some members of Pavelich’s family, who believe that he has chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE — the degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repeated blows to the head. CTE, however, is impossible to diagnose before someone dies. And so, the events of last summer and the findings of the court have only further magnified the enigma that has long been Mark Pavelich — unquestionably the least understood of the ’80 Olympic heroes, and someone who may have been betrayed by the very sport he loved.

Remember when Al Michaels cried in amazement, “Do you believe in miracles?!” It was Feb. 22, 1980, in Lake Placid, N.Y., where a bunch of American kids had just upset the mighty Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics and sparked hope amid a recession, the Iran hostage crisis and the Cold War. Two days later, the U.S. hockey team beat Finland to win gold and consummate the nation’s joy. Sports Illustrated proclaimed the victory the 20th century’s greatest sports moment, and Disney immortalized it with the movie “Miracle.”

Mark Pavelich was at the heart of all that. The diminutive dynamo — only 5-foot-7 but with talent far exceeding his size — set up two critical goals, including Mike Eruzione’s game-winner in the semifinal. In the third period, the score deadlocked 3-3, Pavelich outdueled a Soviet defenseman along the sideboards and, while falling, swept a pass behind his back to Eruzione, who converted on the most famous goal in Olympic history. “They would not have won the gold medal without Pavelich,” says John Gilbert, a journalist who followed the team through the Olympics and wrote “Miracle in Lake Placid.”

Thirteen of the team’s 20 members, including Pavelich, parlayed Olympic gold into jobs in the National Hockey League. Post-hockey, the players continued their success as bankers, businessmen, motivational speakers, coaches, a commercial pilot and an oral surgeon. On Feb. 22 this year, exactly 40 years after defeating the Soviets, the miracle makers will be honored in Las Vegas before a Golden Knights game. Everyone is expected to make it except defenseman Bob Suter, who died of a heart attack in 2014. And Pavelich, who remains locked up.

“The team has talked about this,” says Rob McClanahan, another ’80 Olympian and Pavelich’s road roommate with the New York Rangers. “We are wildly supportive. I love Mark Pavelich like a brother.”

The billboard on the road to Eveleth proclaims that the small hilltop town skirted by two open-pit, iron-ore mines on Minnesota’s Mesabi Range is “filthy rich in hockey history.” That’s not hyperbole. Despite averaging fewer than 6,000 residents in the last century, Eveleth turned out a disproportionately high number of hockey players — from Olympians to professionals. They came of age at the Hippodrome, which opened on Jan. 1, 1922, and remains in use. One of the nation’s earliest indoor ice arenas, “the Hipp” was hailed as “the Madison Square Garden of the Northland.” In 1973 USA Hockey put the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame here in “the Capital of American Hockey.”

This was the culture that inculcated Pavelich, born here to Croatian immigrants on Feb. 28, 1958, the third of five children. His mother, Anne, is a devout Catholic and homemaker who could dress a deer. His father, Tom, was a carpenter who took turns flooding the skating rink behind their house on Ely Lake.

Mark loved to hunt and fish with his siblings, cousins and friends. Most of all, he loved to skate. He played pickup hockey on Ely Lake and on the outdoor rinks in town, four miles away. Often, he skated without laces to strengthen his ankles. When he wasn’t skating, he trekked up Hat Trick Avenue to watch highlight films of Bobby Orr and his other heroes at the Hall of Fame. “My whole life was centered on hockey,” Pavelich said in a 1982 interview with the New York Times.

By high school, where he played three seasons on the Eveleth varsity team, Pavelich had become a phenomenal skater, quick and shifty. It was nearly impossible for opponents to take the puck away from him. He was a dazzling playmaker who made others better with audacious passes. Scott Collins, rink manager at the Hipp, recalls one such pass from a college game. “He started a slap shot, but at the last instant, he made a no-look, behind-the-back pass with the toe of his stick — just turned his wrists and flicked the puck to his teammate,” Collins says. “The goalie froze. It was an easy goal.” Pavelich’s artistry dazzled not only opponents but teammates as well. Recalls his Eveleth teammate Bob Hallstrom: “We’d see him do things on the ice, shake our heads and wonder, ‘How’d he do that?’ ”

Shortly before Pavelich left home for college at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, a tragic accident marked his life. After lunch on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, he went hunting with his brother Dave and neighbors Tom Longer and Ricky Holgers. Ricky was 15; he was Dave’s good friend and their younger sister Carolyn’s boyfriend. The boys walked in the woods near the railroad tracks, scouting for birds. Ricky, dressed in clothing that blended into the dense undergrowth, wandered off, perhaps to get a better shot if they rousted a bird.

When Mark spotted a woodcock, he aimed and fired his .22. The bullet struck Ricky, though Mark and his friends didn’t realize it immediately. They found him lying on the ground, bleeding from the left side of his head. In the chaos that followed, they summoned another neighbor boy, Jim Nyhus, whose mother called for help. The boys loaded Ricky into the Nyhus family station wagon and drove him to the nearest road, where an ambulance brought him to the hospital, about 10 miles away. Ricky died before dinnertime.

Mark locked himself in his bedroom. His parents could not console him. The next day, Jim Rossi, who coached Mark as a Peewee (ages 11-12), talked to him through the door and coaxed him out. The following evenings, after work, Rossi took Mark to the Holgerses’ house, where they sat with Ricky’s parents. They were devastated but did not blame Mark. “I think it helped the healing,” Rossi says.

The Pavelich family carried on blindly. “There was no therapy in the aftermath,” Dave says. “People didn’t know what to do. I was in a state of shock myself. It was a nightmare.” Mark didn’t talk with his friends about Ricky’s death, and they didn’t bring it up. Already quiet and reserved, he became somewhat more withdrawn. “I don’t know if you ever get back to being yourself after something like that,” Dave says.

At UMD, an hour’s drive from Eveleth, Pavelich set the school record his junior year with most points scored in a single season (79) and earned all-American honors. Teammates found him as eccentric as he was talented. Former UMD defenseman Pat Regan remembers Pavelich returning from a fall break with three hay bales in the back of his pickup. Regan asked what they were for. “I’ve got to get my bow dialed in for deer-hunting season,” Pavelich told him and staged a shooting range behind the dorms. “He’d shock you with what he was up to but say it like it was not at all out of the ordinary,” Regan says. “He oftentimes didn’t fit in the norm, but he knew what he wanted.”

That sometimes meant hunting or fishing instead of attending class. It was not unusual for teammates reaching for a bag of ice from the freezer in the trainer’s room to find the breast of a grouse Pavelich had shot that day or a fish he had caught. “The real miracle wasn’t winning the gold medal in 1980,” says Bill Baker, who played for the rival University of Minnesota before he became Pavelich’s Olympic teammate. “It was how they kept Pav eligible for three years.”

Pavelich liked to play pranks on friends at college and into the pros. He would patiently peel off the cellophane tape near the blade of their sticks, saw halfway through the shaft, replace the tape and giggle when they broke one after the other in practice. He propped a rabbit he had shot in the breezers (hockey pants) of his college roommate John Rothstein, a half-smoked cigarette in its mouth and the Hockey News in its paws. Another day, Mike Sertich, then an assistant coach, opened his locker at the Duluth rink, and a partridge flew out. “It scared the bejesus out of me,” Sertich says. “He was a beauty, I tell ya.”

At a practice in Duluth, coach Gus Hendrickson asked, “Where’s Pav?” Suddenly, a very long stick poked through the door at the end of the rink and kept coming — 50 feet of it — before Pavelich appeared. He had collected broken sticks from the rink manager and taped the shafts together. While his coach and teammates watched in awe, Pavelich dangled a puck around the rink with the oversized stick. “He was artistic in what he would dream up to do,” Regan says. “He had a creative mind — and played that way, too.”

Instead of an encore all-American performance at college, Pavelich was tapped by Olympic coach Herb Brooks to play for the U.S. team in what would have been his senior year. “Herbie knew Mark Pavelich was the living embodiment of all the creative ideas inside his head,” says Gilbert, the journalist who followed the Olympic team. “He trained the others for nine months to do what Pav already did.”

Though he was known for his creativity, Pavelich mostly shied from attention; in the yearbook photo of his high school team senior year, he had stood in the back, the only guy not looking at the camera. After the 1980 Olympics, he skipped dinner at the White House and returned to Eveleth. There, proud locals staged a parade in his honor, but he skipped that, too, though he did show up at the elementary school, where he let students try on his gold medal. “He’s a very private person,” says Ronn Tomassoni, another Eveleth hockey teammate and friend. “People labeled him [as a recluse or loner]. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just who he is.” (Pavelich would, over the years, skip Olympic team reunions — most notably the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, where the team lit the cauldron — as well as Brooks’s funeral in 2003, though he did attend the wake the evening prior. Later, he would drive across the country in 2015 for the 35-year reunion in Lake Placid, the last time all the living members were together.)

Despite his all-American year and his Olympic performance, Pavelich did not get selected in the NHL draft. “It hurt,” he told the New York Times. He played for HC Lugano in Switzerland’s top league and scored 73 points in 60 games. But when he ran into Brooks — coaching the Davos team — at a tournament, he confided that he was unhappy. Brooks soon landed the job as the Rangers’ head coach and invited Pavelich to New York.

He did not disappoint, scoring 76 points his first season, which remains the Rangers record for most scored by a rookie. Despite NHL stardom, Pavelich remained true to who he was. The Rangers broadcast team had to bribe him with a fishing rod before he agreed to tape a television interview. (He declined an interview request for this story.) While other players showed up at Madison Square Garden in tailored suits, Pavelich arrived in his tattered Olympics jacket and Sorel boots. The New York Times observed, “He is very much an individualist, a player who often appears rumpled in appearance, with his hair uncombed and his clothes unpressed.” Pavelich was the antithesis of teammate Ron Duguay. Hockey’s Broadway Joe, Duguay sported long blond curls and modeled designer jeans. The two occasionally went out on the town, Duguay in his ankle-length mink overcoat, Pavelich in his nylon windbreaker with “Tuna’s Bar” printed on it. “He wasn’t looking for any fancy glitz or glamour like a lot of them do who get to the NHL,” Jim Rossi says.

Pavelich opens up around those closest to him. During college and after the Olympics, he played guitar in a band that covered Rolling Stones songs. The group performed at an Eveleth bar and at the wedding of another Eveleth teammate when the hired band took a break. “If you got close to him,” Sertich says, “you had a lifelong friend.”

The Rangers replaced Herb Brooks with Ted Sator as head coach in 1985. Sator scrapped Brooks’s improvisational style in favor of a dump-and-chase approach, where players fire the puck from mid-ice into the opponent’s end and chase it. The change stifled Pavelich’s greatest asset: his creativity. “Asking Mark Pavelich to play dump-and-chase is like asking Rembrandt to paint your fence,” John Gilbert says. After being scratched from two consecutive games in early March, a miserable Pavelich skipped two practices and a game. Sator drove out to his condo in Westchester County, but Pavelich didn’t answer the door.

At the time, the 28-year-old was making the most money he ever had, nearly $200,000 a year. But with 14 games remaining in the regular season, he quit. “You’ve only got one life to live,” he told Gilbert. “There was a point where I really enjoyed [hockey]. But now, the minuses outweigh the pluses.”

That was Pavelich — predictably unpredictable. Before the 1985 season started, he had surprised friends when he married Sue Koski, a 21-year-old from Cherry, 12 miles from Eveleth. “It wasn’t that he didn’t like women but that he seemed to like solitude even more,” sports columnist George Vecsey wrote in the New York Times. Now he surprised his young wife by walking away from a bountiful paycheck. “[My parents] were furious,” he admitted to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Everyone thinks money is the most important thing, but it’s not.”

In the fall of 1986, the Paveliches headed to Scotland, where Mark wanted to play for the Dundee Rockets with his friend and former high school teammate Craig Homola, but the Rangers would not relinquish his contract. When the Minnesota North Stars acquired his rights later that season, Pavelich returned to his home state to play their final 12 games. That summer, he and Sue had a daughter. Pavelich skated the next two winters with the Italian team HC Bolzano. But when the 1989-90 hockey season began, he was no longer playing, and his marriage was dissolving. Sue filed for divorce in December 1989, citing “an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship.”

Pavelich met Kara Burmachuk in January 1990 when he brought his young daughter, Tarja, to her house for piano lessons. Something of a prodigy herself, Kara had, at 22, learned Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude” in a month and played it for a contest in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which she won. She was also pretty.

It took six months of waiting in the living room during the weekly lessons for Pavelich to ask Kara out. He took her fishing. Before long, they fell in love. After his divorce was finalized in the fall of 1991 — and a comeback with the San Jose Sharks ended after two games — he bought land on Deeryard Lake. Pavelich had been making money buying and selling land along the North Shore of Lake Superior. On this property, though, he intended to build a house. The remote location suited him: four miles up the Caribou Trail from Lutsen and another four miles on single-lane dirt roads that wound through thick woods to Deeryard Lake.

He and Kara married in November 1994. He was 36, she was 26. Kara’s father, Brian Burmachuk, a Christian minister, officiated in the Burmachuk home before his wife and Mark’s parents. Mark had wanted it simple.

They lived on the land while they constructed their house. Pavelich knew how to work with wood, having learned from his father. He built the structure and most of the furniture. Kara learned to do the rest: plumbing, wiring and setting stones into the exterior walls. They planted grapes in a raised garden out back lined by rocks about a foot in diameter. Burmachuk marveled at his daughter’s work and called their home “The Seventh Wonder of Cook County.”

Like Mark, Kara loved to be outdoors. They camped and fished together. When his hockey buddies visited before the house was finished, she cooked meals over a campfire. Outgoing and able to talk to anyone, she also played the guitar and sang. “There are not many women who would fit Mark’s ideal of the perfect woman, but she was it,” Homola says.

Mark’s family also liked Kara. Jean and her husband bought the lot across the lane from their place on Deeryard Lake and spent summers there. Their sister Carolyn and her husband bought a lot about a mile away. Kara brought her in-laws pies she had baked with berries picked near her house. “She was an angel,” Jean says. They didn’t have children of their own, but Kara helped Mark raise Tarja, who spent every other weekend with them during the school year and more time during the summers. He wore a T-shirt that said “No. 1 Dad.”

Kara taught herself to paint with acrylics. She spent many evenings decorating rocks, T-shirts and canvases with inspiration drawn from landscapes and wildlife around Lake Superior. She sold her work at galleries along the North Shore and at art fairs. She became a regular Saturday mornings at the Cook County Farm and Craft Market in Grand Marais, earning $10,000 to $15,000 a year. They spent winters in Clifton, Ariz., where Mark had built a small place. Other times, they traveled the country, camping and fishing, Kara sketching in the truck, Mark scouting land to buy. “She really loved Mark,” Brian Burmachuk says. “They had a fantastic relationship.”

Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, broke clear and sunny. Kara and Mark worked on their boat, a gray Boston Whaler. The house, though mostly finished, remained a work in progress, with the utility room waiting for drywall, walls in a spare bedroom only partially painted, and a small deck off Tarja’s second-floor bedroom without a railing — Kara couldn’t decide if she wanted it to be wood or metal.

At 11:32 a.m., Pavelich called 911. Kara had fallen off the 4-by-5-foot deck. Her head had struck one of the rocks 15 feet below. The impact split open her skull. Jan and David Morris, friends who lived down the lane, hurried over when someone listening to a police scanner alerted them. Jan, a retired nurse, performed CPR, though Kara was unresponsive. Two Cook County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the same time as the ambulance. They also performed CPR, but the hospital physician who eventually saw Kara determined the blow to her head had killed her instantly. She was 44 years old.

Pavelich told the deputies that after working on the boat he had gone inside to take a nap. When he woke, he found Kara. One of the deputies, Paul Spry, discovered a cellphone on the ground near Kara. The Morrises, who had known the Paveliches for eight years and socialized with them weekly, told him the second-floor deck was the best place to get cellphone reception. Perhaps Kara had gone out to make a call, gotten distracted and lost her footing. Or maybe Chloe, their German shepherd, had bumped her. Or she had tripped over one of their two cats.

The other deputy, David Gilmore, asked the Morrises whether they had noticed anything that would indicate marital trouble or if they were aware of financial problems. “The Morris’ [sic] had nothing but good things to say about Kara and Mark and didn’t say that anything stood out as trouble,” Gilmore wrote in his report. He and Spry concluded Kara’s death was accidental.

Pavelich was distraught. Friends say he blamed himself for Kara’s death, for putting the rocks where she had struck her head. “First thing he did was get rid of those rocks,” his sister Jean says. “He threw them into the woods.” He asked Kara’s father to make the arrangements and preside at a memorial at the Burmachuks’ former house in nearby Tofte. Kara’s and Mark’s friends, many of whom had traveled hundreds of miles, filled the house. It was the first time in 54 years his mother had seen Mark cry.

Cook County is a small community. People talk, rumors spread. Some wondered how a woman in her 40s could fall off a deck. They also questioned the thoroughness of the deputies’ investigation. Kara had bought a new Android smartphone a month earlier, but Gilmore did not state in his report whether that was the phone they found by her body. Nor did he note whether the phone had been damaged in the fall. The deputies did not check the phone to see if she had been using it or whom she might have been talking to.

“I was disappointed the police didn’t investigate the death with more scrutiny,” says Jane Howard, who worked as a reporter for the Cook County News Herald at the time and had known Kara and her family since childhood. “I remember asking, ‘Why weren’t the police more suspicious?’ I was thinking they should be looking into this more.”

When asked about this recently, Deputy Gilmore, now working for the Freeborn County sheriff’s office, explained that their conclusion was based on the position of Kara’s body relative to the deck above. “If someone pushed her, she would’ve been farther out on the ground,” he says. “Based on where the body was located makes us think it was a fall.”

Pavelich’s arrest this past August prompted calls for the Cook County sheriff’s office to go back and look more closely at the circumstances of his wife’s death. Sheriff Pat Eliason, who was not sheriff at the time, said he did not plan to reopen the investigation, though he did acknowledge “deficiencies” in it. He says deputies should have checked the cellphone. He also thinks the position of the body is subjective, not definitive. “Maybe she didn’t need to be pushed,” he says. “[Pavelich] could’ve just given her one of these — ” he flicks his shoulder. “For the sake of the family, we need to treat every death as a homicide until we can determine it’s not.”

But the Burmachuks do not believe Kara’s death was a homicide. “Certain people in the county thought maybe Mark pushed her over,” Brian Burmachuk says. “In the 22 years I knew him, he never gave me the impression he was the murdering type. It never, never crossed my mind that he had done that.”

In the more than seven years since Kara’s death, Pavelich has stayed in touch with his father-in-law, calling almost weekly for long chats. Burmachuk and his daughter Dana visited Pavelich in the county jail after his arrest. Dana recalls a time with Kara and Mark at Deeryard Lake. She was still getting to know Mark, and they were on a group hike in the woods through deep snow. Dana kept getting stuck; Mark hung back to help her. She was touched by his compassion and caring. “It brings tears to my eyes,” she says.

After Kara’s death, Pavelich wasn’t known to date, and family and friends worried about him being alone in the secluded house. He picked up his mail at the Lutsen post office but was not seen around Grand Marais. “He’s sort of a ghost, not part of our community,” says Brian Larsen, editor of the Cook County News Herald.

When his German shepherd died, Pavelich got two border collies. He spent months driving around the country with them in his pickup fitted with a camper. He bought 3½ acres near Grangeville, Idaho, a remote location on a trout and salmon river, where he was building himself a place. But his behavior seemed to become more unpredictable.

He had lent his gold medal to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, but in 2014 he auctioned it for $262,900 and split the money with his daughter, now married and a mother. “You’re limited to what you can do with these things,” he told a reporter at the time. “You can’t put them in a house because it could burn or get stolen, and it’s just gone and useless.”

After his arrest in August 2019, word spread in newspapers across the United States, Canada and Europe. “I was surprised by the fight,” Regan says. “When I heard the explanation” — Pavelich’s suspicion that Miller had poisoned him — “that didn’t surprise me. We’d heard it before.” (Miller did not respond to requests for comment.)

Those closest to Pavelich had noticed him becoming increasingly confused, forgetful, irritable and paranoid since Kara’s death in 2012. They suggested he get psychological help or take medication. He insisted nothing was wrong and further isolated himself. He complained to the Cook County sheriff’s office that someone had tampered with both of his trucks, dumping gravel into the gas tank of one and putting “cutup tin foil” into the other. He accused his son-in-law of trying to poison him. He suspected a neighbor had given him cookies laced with poison. In fact, he claimed to know of at least half a dozen people intent on poisoning him.

In 2016, someone slashed the tires of Jean’s RV while it was parked on her lot across the lane from Mark’s house. She was convinced Mark had done it. One of the wildlife cameras on her property had captured an image of him about the time of the incident. Not long after, Pavelich accused his neighbor John Zattoni of pouring sludge into his fuel tank. Zattoni later reported to the sheriff’s office that someone had bludgeoned holes into the bow of the boat parked on his property. He suspected Pavelich but was afraid to press charges. Around that time, Jean sent the sheriff’s office two time-stamped photos from her cameras of someone she identified as Mark. “It’s proof that he has been terrorizing me after his threats to me the prior year,” she wrote in an email.

“Mark was angry at us for trying to get him help,” Jean says. “I didn’t approach it right. We asked the sheriff to talk to him. If you don’t think you have a problem, you don’t want someone accusing you of having one.”

After the incident with Miller led to his arrest, Pavelich called friends, including those he’d shut out, and asked for money to post the $250,000 bail. But his family spread the word, saying in effect, “Please don’t. He’s sick and needs help. Now he can get it.” They feared if he got out, he might slip into the woods and disappear.

Some family members are convinced he suffers from CTE. “When I read about CTE, I could tell that’s what it was,” Jean says. “I would stake my life on it. You just don’t see that big a personality change in someone in just a few years.”

Diagnosing CTE requires a brain autopsy; it is the only way to provide proof of the excessive tau protein buildup that crashes the brain’s neurons. Brain imaging and spinal taps in living people can offer clues but ultimately are insufficient for a definitive diagnosis. Most often patients are screened when they exhibit a combination of cognitive, behavioral and mood symptoms. In the presence of symptoms — commonly confusion, memory loss, short temper, depression, paranoia — and after ruling out other neurological conditions that could be their cause, the strongest predictor of CTE is the total amount of brain trauma sustained at the subconcussive and concussive level, according to Robert Cantu, co-founder of the CTE Center at Boston University. “Concussions count, but the subconcussive blows are driving the bus,” Cantu says. “They are more important because they are more frequent. Someone can receive a thousandfold more subconcussive blows than concussions.”

Not everyone, however, agrees on the role of sports in causing CTE. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman declared in 2016, “The relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown.” He was responding to a lawsuit filed by a group of ex-NHL players charging the league was negligent in allowing their head injuries to occur, and he remains firm in his position. The NHL settled the claim with 302 players, paying each approximately $22,000 and up to $75,000 for medical treatment, but admitted no fault. (Bettman declined a request to comment specifically on Pavelich’s case.)

Though Pavelich did not sign on to the lawsuit, he certainly received his share of blows to the head during his hockey career. There’s documentation of one concussion from February 1984. He sat out one game and played four days later. He may have suffered more. When Pavelich played, in the ’70s and ’80s, concussion protocols weren’t as rigorous as they are today. “Back then, we just got the smelling salts and looked at the scoreboard,” Craig Homola says. “If you could tell the score or how much time was left, you went back in.”

Mark’s mother, Anne, also believes CTE has contributed to her son’s problems. She tells the story of Herb Brooks confiding in her more than 20 years after the fact that Pavelich had gotten hit so hard in one game during the U.S. team’s run that he didn’t think Pavelich would be able to play again in the Olympics. (Several teammates, the team doctor and three authors who wrote books about the team, however, could not pinpoint when that might have been.)

NHL opponents may have targeted Pavelich for being an American in the predominantly Canadian league, or for the attention he won along with the gold medal. Others went after him simply to neutralize his skills. Jean has a videotape of a game from Pavelich’s rookie season, when one player from the Philadelphia Flyers who had five inches on Pavelich harassed him throughout a game — seemingly intent on taking him out — until Pavelich finally dropped his gloves to defend himself. It was his first NHL fight. “Here, they call it assault,” says Jean, in the hallway outside the courtroom during her brother’s hearing. “There, they call it hockey.”

It’s undeniable that the NHL has created a culture of violence that has affected its players. “It’s a full-contact sport where you’re trying to hurt each other at times,” says Barry Beck, who played 10 seasons in the NHL and was Pavelich’s teammate for five. Bill Daly, NHL deputy commissioner, described the consequences of this culture on its players in an email he sent to Bettman in 2011: “Fighting raises the incidence of head injuries/concussions, which raises the incidence of depression onset, which raises the incidence of personal tragedies.”

The accumulated subconcussive blows may be the root of Pavelich’s personal tragedy. In the NHL’s brawling days, he didn’t back down, fighting at least nine times in five years with the Rangers. He was unafraid to go into corners, where larger players swung their elbows at the height of his head. W. Norman Scott, the Rangers’ team physician during that time, cannot recall a specific concussion or punishing hit from so many years ago but says, “Did he get whacked in the head? I’d bet the ranch on it. They’d have injuries and you wouldn’t know about it.”

Though Cantu has not examined Pavelich, he thinks he could be suffering from CTE. “I’ve read the reports of his cognitive difficulties and his paranoid ideation,” he says. Given the length of his career, “it’s teetering toward CTE without question, but we wouldn’t be able to definitively diagnose it until we had his brain.”

Pavelich’s behavior left some residents of Cook County unsettled. “I know a few neighbors up there [by Deeryard Lake] who are more comfortable that he’s not around,” says Gail Thompson, who owns the Clearview General Store in the six-shop, log-cabin-looking strip mall that makes up Lutsen’s commercial district. “You should be able to sleep at night.”

Pavelich did not speak at the November hearing other than to state his name and date of birth. Nine days later, Judge Cuzzo, declaring Pavelich mentally ill and dangerous, ordered that he be committed to the Forensic Mental Health Program in St. Peter, about 60 miles southwest of Minneapolis. He expressed concern that Pavelich’s violence had escalated from property damage to physical harm and determined there was “a substantial likelihood” that Pavelich might harm someone else.

A hearing is scheduled for this month to review whether the commitment should be extended indeterminately. The average length of stay for mentally ill and dangerous patients at the St. Peter hospital, from commitment to provisional discharge (the civil equivalent of parole), is about six years. For a provisional discharge, the court must determine Pavelich no longer poses a threat. At that point, he could still face the criminal charges if the Cook County prosecutor opts to renew them beyond the three-year suspension.

For the time being, he remains confined in the hospital. He has reportedly taken comfort in visits from family, cards from well-wishers across the country, and the dark chocolate Dove bars sold in the canteen. But he has also expressed concerns about fights on the ward, which he told a friend happen “on a regular basis.”

Barry Beck, captain of the Rangers when Pavelich played, calls his former teammate almost daily despite the 14-hour time difference between Hong Kong, where he coaches the national team, and Minnesota. Beck sympathizes. He figures he suffered at least a dozen concussions himself and experiences depression as a result. “I can tell you from my own experience with concussions, they take their toll,” Beck says.

He knows how tough it is for players used to pushing through injuries to ask for help, especially with the stigma attached to mental illness. He’d like to see the NHL set up a mental health hotline. “A lot of players are suffering, but they do it in silence,” Beck says. “When a player is desperate and down to his last choice, he needs to make that call to someone he trusts.”

Beck has formed a group of eight retired NHL players who envision a ranch where hockey players suffering the effects of mental illness can come together to receive help. It will include dogs and horses for pet therapy, yoga, a gym, group therapy and research facilities. They plan to call it the Mark Pavelich Ranch, with Pavelich’s blessing, and have set up a GoFundMe page that by early February had raised $12,723 toward a $17,000 goal. “Mark’s actions aren’t indicative of who he is,” Beck says. “There are a lot of other players out there like Mark.”

An Olympic Hockey Hero, a Violent Crime and the Specter of Brain Trauma
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neuro-ophthalmologic function can be affected, at least in the short term, by just 10 subconcussive head impacts

Post by greybeard58 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:55 pm

neuro-ophthalmologic function can be affected, at least in the short term, by just 10 subconcussive head impacts

Indiana University study finds neuro-ophthalmologic function can be affected, at least in the short term, by just 10 subconcussive head impacts from heading soccer balls.

Question How and what extent do subconcussive head impacts from 10 soccer-ball headings influence neuro-ophthalmologic function, as measured by the King-Devick test and near point of convergence test?

Findings This randomized clinical trial assessed King-Devick test speed and error and near point of convergence before and at 0, 2, and 24 hours after soccer-ball headings and found that 10 soccer-ball headings transiently blunted the neuro-ophthalmologic ability to learn and adapt to the King-Devick test.

Meaning These data suggest that the neural circuitry linking cognitive and oculomotor functions may be temporarily vulnerable to acute subconcussive head impacts.

Neuro-Ophthalmologic Response to Repetitive Subconcussive Head Impacts
A Randomized Clinical Trial
Read the study at: ... ct/2761538

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Athletes are killing themselves and schools in Michigan fear their players could be next

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 3:15 pm

Athletes are killing themselves and schools in Michigan fear their players could be next

Too many people are struggling in silence, dealing with depression and anxiety, living in darkness, unsure what is wrong or how to get help.

Too many young adults are killing themselves: Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students.

Zachary Winston brought it back into the national spotlight when he died by suicide at Albion College.

Today, the Free Press is taking an in-depth look at college athletics and mental health, using sports to shed light on a national crisis. The Free Press found a wide disparity in how Michigan colleges handle mental health issues, and athletic administrators at several schools admitted they fear they aren’t doing enough. These administrators should be commended for their honesty because it is time to talk openly about this issue — to talk about what is working, as well as what is not. This isn’t about casting blame or pointing fingers, it’s about trying to isolate problems and highlight solutions. The stigma has to be broken. And it starts with education and unvarnished openness.

This isn’t an athletic issue. It’s a societal issue. Too many counseling centers are underfunded and understaffed. Too many don’t take this seriously until there is a crisis. And it’s too hard to get mental health care.

We must get to the point where an athlete going for mental health treatment is no different than getting treatment for a sprained ankle.

But it’s not just athletes, of course.

It’s all of us.

Here was a college football player, stuck in the shadows of his own mind, on the brink of a tragedy. His thoughts kept racing, obsessing about death and dying, unsure what was wrong or how to make it stop.

“I was in a dark place,” former Michigan football player Will Heininger said. “The days felt miserable and long. I had racing thoughts, all day, every day, every 5 seconds.”

Heininger had just finished his freshman year at Michigan in 2008. He felt alone and didn’t know where to get help. He could have been any athlete, at any school. Research shows that about 30% of all college athletes experience depression, according to the NCAA.

“I couldn’t imagine living another 50 years like that, let alone another year,” Heininger said.

Here was a small college on the cusp of a tragedy. It could have been any college, at any level.

Before Winston died by suicide, the subject of how to handle athletes experiencing mental health issues was raised at an Albion College athletic department staff meeting, according to a coach in the room.

It is a topic that all colleges, not just the athletic departments, are wrestling with: one out of every eight college students (13.3%) makes a suicide plan, according to National College Health Assessment. Research shows that 65.7% felt overwhelming anxiety and 45.1% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function, according to NCHA.

An Albion assistant coach asked athletic director Matt Arend whether the department would consider hiring a mental health professional to work with athletes, but Arend said no, according to the coach, who agreed to speak to the Free Press on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution. An Albion College spokesperson said that is an “inaccurate” description of the staff meeting but would not elaborate.

Winston took his own life on Nov. 9.

Most small schools say they can’t afford a mental health expert in their athletic department, even those spending millions on new facilities. Albion, which is undergoing a $5 million renovation of its athletic facilities, relies on its athletic trainers and coaches to spot warning signs before sending athletes to an on-campus counseling center, a policy shared by most small schools.

Here was a doctor at the NCAA, devastated by suicide but determined to do something.

Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, made a bold statement after he was hired in 2013, calling mental health “the biggest issue” facing college athletics.

“I’ve lost a couple of people who I was exceptionally close to who died by suicide,” Hainline said. “And I’ve had three patients kill themselves and it devastates me, and it always will.”

The NCAA has raised awareness of suicide issues, issued best practices and guidelines and tried to get colleges to take this issue seriously.

But a Free Press examination of colleges across the state revealed a wide disparity in how athletic departments handle mental health issues. Some colleges have an extensive support network — the University of Michigan has a staff of seven mental health experts who work exclusively with its athletes. But other schools barely have anything. Some colleges didn’t start taking the issue seriously until one of their athletes faced a crisis. And some mental health programs have turned into a mishmash of procedures and practices.

Most small schools send athletes to on-campus counseling, but that is not an ideal situation. Many counselors don’t understand the unique challenges facing athletes, and it can be difficult for athletes to get an appointment to see a counselor or schedule regular sessions because of long wait lists and complicated athletic schedules. In addition, some athletes are uncomfortable going to a counseling center because of the stigma.

Every college does something different and no one is quite sure what is the best approach.

Several administrators told the Free Press that all of this uncertainty makes them live in fear that a tragedy is just around the corner.

“It scares the tar out of you,” Hope College athletic director Tim Schoonveld said. “That could be, literally, on any day of the week, any of us. That’s the scary deal. No matter what you are doing, it could be any of us. It’s out there and it’s everywhere.”

This isn’t just an athletic issue, it’s a public health crisis.But the more we talk about this, the more we look at how different groups are trying to combat it, the better we will be.

The hope
Here is an athlete, who came out of the darkness and was saved.

Heininger battled his demons in silence for several months until he broke down after a practice in 2008. But he was lucky when Lenny Navitskis, a Michigan trainer, saw the warning signs.

“He saw me and put his arm around me and said, ‘Will, come with me,’ ” Heininger said. “ ‘You are going to be OK. We will take care of you.’

“He walked me into Schembechler Hall and into Barb Hansen’s office, who I credit in a lot of ways for saving my life.”

Heininger got the help he needed from Hansen, now a retired athletics counselor, and learned skills that changed his life.

“After that point, I was thriving, utilizing those tools,” Heininger said.

He became a team captain and helped carry Lloyd Carr off the field, after his final game of the 2007 season.

There are several lessons in Heininger’s story. It is important to educate everyone in an athletic department — coaches, staff and administers — to spot warning signs. It is important for athletes to understand mental health issues are real. There is no shame in getting treatment for a sprained ankle and this shouldn’t be any different. There are tools to cope. No matter how bad it seems, it will get better.

The administrator
Here was the NCAA, putting a focus on mental health. But many athletes held an old-school mentality: "I’ll just tough it out."

The NCAA issued guidelines and best practices in 2016 but not every college implemented them. Some created a crisis plan but didn’t actually practice it. Only about 75% of Division 1 schools rehearsed emergency action plans and only about half of Division 2 and 3 schools had implemented them by 2017, according to the NCAA.

"That’s a striking gap when you think about it,” Hainline said. “We found the membership was having a hard time implementing it.”

The NCAA developed a mental health operational tool kit, a seven-hour program to try to bridge that gap.

The NCAA implemented a new rule in 2019, requiring all colleges to guarantee mental health services for its athletes. But Hainline acknowledges it is not a perfect solution. “It doesn’t address the fact that we have a shortage of mental health providers who actually have an expertise in sports medicine,” Hainline said.

Even though some schools send their athletes to on-campus counseling, there is no guarantee the counselors know how to deal with athletes, or even whether the athletes can get an appointment or routine care.

Springing into action
Here is some honesty, and that is important, because it’s time to be brutally honest about this subject.

Officials at several Michigan colleges admitted to the Free Press that they started taking mental health issues seriously only after an athlete faced a crisis. “A couple years ago, we didn’t have a lot of resources, or even a plan in case something happened,” Olivet athletic trainer Samantha Whiteman said.

An Olivet student faced a serious mental health crisis in fall 2018 but Olivet’s athletic department wasn’t prepared for it. “You don’t really know exactly how to deal with it,” Whiteman said.

But it sparked Olivet into action. “Our coaches expressed to us, ‘We don’t really know what to do if this situation comes up, or how to deal with it,’ ” Whiteman said.

Olivet held several informational sessions last spring to inform its coaches. “We thought that would help everybody get on the same page,” Whiteman said.

Olivet is a private, liberal arts college with 1,000 students. Last year, Olivet didn’t have an on-campus counselor. “We had some options in Battle Creek,” Whiteman said. “That was mainly it. It was a half-hour away. For a student without a car, that was difficult.”

But Olivet has added on-campus counselors for its student body, which athletes can use. “That has helped a ton,” Whiteman said. “If someone says they are having suicidal thoughts, but they are struggling, that’s who we try to push them toward, on-campus counselors. We’ve had a lot of success with them so far. … We are still in the process of getting things together, but we are doing a lot better at it.”

The athletic department at Calvin College, a private liberal arts institution in Grand Rapids, began to focus more on mental health after a student-athlete faced a serious mental health issue.

“I didn’t think a lot about it until I had an athlete who was suicidal,” said Calvin athletic trainer Kerri Clausen, who declined to say when that happened for privacy reasons. “It sparked, 'What are we doing and how do we do it appropriately?' ”

Clausen immersed herself in the subject and is now a strong advocate for educating student-athletes about mental health. She has created a brochure that lists warning signs and where to get help for Calvin athletes. She gives it to student-athletes and posts it in locker rooms. “People just don’t know,” Clausen said. “When you go to college, no one sits and tells you what is available to you.”

Dr. Irene Kraegel, who directs Calvin’s counseling center, talks to teams and at coaches’ meetings, trying to teach them warning signs and where to get help. “We do have a very strong on-campus counseling center,” Calvin senior associate athletic director Nancy Meyer said. “We also have several mental health facilities in town, for the serious cases. We have an on-campus psychologist. As well, because we are a Christian college, we have multiple chaplains, who all have had training in counseling. We feel like we are in a pretty good position.”

But Meyer said it is important to find counselors who understand athletes. “You can have a great counseling service," Meyer said, "but if they don’t understand athletes, and if they don’t understand the pressures they are under, then it’s actually not that beneficial.”

The NCAA requires institutions to identify someone on staff to be the point person with mental health concerns. At small schools, that is often athletic trainers, which makes sense because they are often more tied in with athletes than the coaches because they spend so much time together.

But many trainers complain that they need more training.

Several schools have gotten creative with how they try to deal with this issue. Michigan State has the Green Bandanna Project. Fifty student athletes are awareness/peer advocates. They tie a green bandanna to their backpack so that others know they can approach them for assistance, and MSU has has doubled the amount of hours psychiatrists are available to our student-athletes every week.

Gretchen Goodman, a former athletic trainer, is now the head of Grand Valley State's mental health program for athletes, one of the few Division 2 schools to have an in-house program. Goodman created a website with tips and resources, started doing monthly presentations and sends out tips on Instagram and Twitter. She is trying to reach student-athletes in different ways, using peer-to-peer interaction and video clips of athletes telling their stories. “There is a lot of power when a student-athlete is telling other student-athletes, ‘Hey, I’ve gone through something similar,’ ” she said. “We are trying to be preventative. You never know when the person sitting next to you on the bench is going to be going through something and you need to be there for them.”

The fear
Here is a man, who can view this issue through several points of view — with the insight of a former player, the compassion of a parent and the global view of an athletic director.

Hope College athletic director Tim Schoonveld was a star basketball player at Hope and now his daughter, Kenedy, plays women’s basketball at Hope.

“It’s scary right now for kids, the anxiety and depression and mental health issues,” Schoonveld said. “It’s so far beyond what it has been.”

That has Schoonveld wishing he could hire a full-time mental health expert for his athletic department.

“If you said to me, ‘Hey, what is a top priority for Hope athletics?’ ” Schoonveld said. “I would say, ‘We need to find a way to fund somebody who would be a mental health professional who could work with our teams on a consistent basis.’

“Right now, our counseling center is great, but they are more reactive than they are proactive. Just because of time and number of people. Sometimes, it takes a week or two to get in to counseling.”

Recently, a Hope athlete faced a mental health crisis and Schoonveld tried to find help outside the college. Even that proved difficult. “There is so much need," he said. "Our goal is to find somebody who can proactively work with our teams.”

Hope has focused on mental health issues, in part, because it has dealt with several athletes who have experienced a range of issues.

A year ago, Hope gave its prestigious Courage Award to a women’s soccer player who had attempted suicide 1½ years earlier.

Finding holes

Here is an entire conference, admitting nothing is perfect and trying to figure this out.

The MIAA is holding a mental health symposium for its member schools on Feb. 25 at Adrian College, which was scheduled before Winston’s death. The schools will go over NCAA best practices and evaluate what they might be missing.

“What do you have?” said Meg Sharp, Adrian’s assistant athletic trainer. "What do you not have? Where are the holes?"

The schools share some of the creative ways they are trying to get students informed. Adrian created a sticker with a QR code that has been placed around campus. “It says, ‘Need a helping paw, scan here for confidential resources,’ ” Sharp said. “I thought it was a simple, easy way to get it out there. I think flooding it on your campus, making everyone aware that we are all kind of talking about it, has helped our campus.”

Several schools use different slogans to reinforce different points.

“It’s OK to ask for help,” Sharp said. “It’s letting them know this is nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of. It’s OK not to be OK. I feel like I say that three times a day, for athletic injuries as well as mental health.”

Hope College has something similar, according to football coach Peter Stuursma.

“We also use the slogan ‘See something, say something’ a lot, with our team, to reinforce the opportunity to provide support and or seek help for teammates who appear to be struggling,” Stuursma said.

The Mid-American Conference, which includes Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, was one of the first conferences to implement a comprehensive league-wide program on mental health.

“The education part is the biggest part of it, and it’s not just the student-athletes, it’s the coaches and administrators,” MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said. “It’s having a sense of commitment and buy-in, that we are about the total student. It’s the Latin phrase, ‘Mens sana in corpore sano.’ A sound mind in a sound body.”

New strategies
Here is a psychiatrist, who is passionate about mental health concerns because it is so personal to him.

“My mother attempted suicide when I was in medical school,” says Dr. Rahul Mehra, a psychiatrist, who moderated a panel discussion on mental health at the NCAA Convention in January in Anaheim, California. “Decision makers and board of trustees, unless you have been exposed to a family member with mental health issues, you have no clue about this.”

While many athletic departments send their athletes to on-campus counseling centers, Mehra sees a gaping hole in the strategy. “The national trend is, counseling centers at colleges across the country are understaffed and under-resourced,” said Mehra, the CEO and chief physician of the National Center for Performance Health, based in Tampa.

But Mehra says he has found a way. He runs a company that offers video counseling to athletes.

“Suicide doesn’t conveniently happen between the hours of 8 and 5 p.m.,” he said. “It happens between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., when resources are least available. … These college administrators, athletic directors, college presidents and the college board of trustees are not hearing these messages. There are well-meaning people, but they don’t know where to begin. This problem seems so enormous for them. But I say, begin somewhere, with something.”

Here is a college, still grieving the loss of an athlete.

Albion is not alone. Several colleges have had to deal with athletes who took their lives. No school is safe or has a foolproof plan. But it would be a tragic missed opportunity atop a human tragedy if we didn't find lessons in every situation or try to deal with these issues with complete transparency.

An Albion coach grew frustrated and told the Free Press that the Albion administration did not give coaches clear direction or advice on how to deal with athletes who were struggling with mental health issues before Winston’s death, other than advising the athletes to call security.

“The information you shared is inaccurate as often is the case with information from anonymous sources,” Chuck Carlson, Albion Director of Communications and Media Relations, wrote in a response.

Carlson declined to elaborate what was inaccurate, and he denied repeated requests to talk to members of Albion's athletic department. “We have established protocols to identify and respond to student-athletes who may be experiencing mental health issues,” Carlson wrote.

There is a wide gap between the coach's version and Carlson's statement.

Carlson said Albion’s 600 student-athletes have access to on-campus counseling services. He laid out several things Albion does, following NCAA guidelines, from screening new student-athletes to training members of the athletic department to identify and respond to student-athletes who show signs and symptoms of mental health issues. The training includes “walking a student-athlete to Counseling Services,” according to Carlson.

“The health and well-being of our student-athletes is at the forefront of every decision we make,” Carlson wrote.

There is no indication that Albion could have done anything differently to prevent Winston’s death. But if one coach doesn’t know what to do in a crisis, as the source told the Free Press, there is more work to be done. Clearly, having policies isn't enough. And crisis action plans have to be practiced. And it is important for all of us to talk about these complicated issues, in honest ways, so that everybody can help each other.

The key is prevention

Here is a former athlete, now working to save lives.

Heininger works for Athletes Connected, a collaboration between the U-M School of Public Health, Depression Center, and Athletic Department — a program that started with a $50,000 grant from the NCAA. The department has seven counselors, who deal with mental health issues for Michigan athletes, ranging from sports performances to anxiety and depression.

Heininger works with middle school students to college athletes, giving the same message to everyone: “No matter how bad it is, you are not alone. There are millions of people who experience mental health issues. I make sure they know treatment works and to know it is a real illness.”

Sometimes, students ask him whether he considered suicide. He never did, but he was fixated on death.

“I say, 'I understand to think that it’s not worth it to be alive anymore and what a scary place that is to be,’ ” he said. “If you ever feel anywhere close to that, just tell somebody. Please, tell somebody who loves you, somebody you love. I tell them, ‘I promise you will get better. You won’t always feel the way you do. And secondly, if you are in that space, you probably don’t believe me right now but that’s what it does to you. I’ve been there.’ ”

For too long, mental health has focused on the crisis situation.

But the key is prevention.

“How can we reduce stress up front?” Heininger said. “How can we educate better, to help students become experts themselves. That’s when you have really done your work, when they are able to utilize the tools you have taught them and they can navigate whatever comes their way and if not, they know who to ask.”

This issue has so many layers, so many faces. But one message should be repeated above everything else: Education is the key. Mental health issues have to be normalized. Plans have to be in place and practiced. And we have to figure out a way to make it easier for everyone to get help. Because there is hope. There is a way out. And no matter how bad things might seem, it will get better.

How to get help
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. It provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Athletes are killing themselves and schools in Michigan fear their players could be next
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Why Are So Many Teen Athletes Struggling With Depression?

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 5:11 pm

Why Are So Many Teen Athletes Struggling With Depression?

When Isabella started playing lacrosse in the first grade, she would wake up before sunrise and count the minutes until she could hop the chain-link fence that separated her house from the field where her team practiced. Her deftness with a lacrosse stick made her an early standout, and she soon gave up basketball and soccer to focus on the sport. By the time Isabella was a high-school sophomore, she had already been recruited by an elite, Division I college and was signing autographs in her lacrosse-obsessed hometown. “Lacrosse was a way to get attention—it filled that need,” says Isabella, who is being identified by her middle name to protect her privacy.

But during the summer before her junior year, Isabella pivoted awkwardly during a game and fell to the ground in pain. She had torn her ACL. For eight months, she couldn’t return to the field. “It was my worst year ever,” Isabella told me. While her teammates competed in tournaments, she worried about falling behind in the sport. While her friends mingled after school, she was stuck at physical therapy. Without lacrosse, Isabella felt restless and out of sorts. She started eating more and soon developed an eating disorder. “I’d grown up playing lacrosse, and I had no other hobbies,” Isabella said. “So when you don’t have it, you’re like, What am I going to do?”

Mental-health challenges are not unique to competitive student athletes like Isabella, of course: Nearly half of American youths struggle with a mental illness before turning 18, while 12 percent have experienced a bout of depression. But even though playing sports on a regular basis can boost physical and mental health, for some serious high-school athletes—many who train year-round and might need an athletic scholarship to afford college tuition—sports can be a key contributor to depression and anxiety.

“The professional consensus is that the incidence of anxiety and depression among scholastic athletes has increased over the past 10 to 15 years,” says Marshall Mintz, a New Jersey–based sports psychologist who has worked with teenagers for 30 years. As one 2015 study by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association found, “Many student-athletes report higher levels of negative emotional states than non-student-athlete adolescents.” Though parents and coaches are often best positioned to remedy the problem, they also often make it worse.

One reason for this trend is that high-school sports have begun to copy the training methods and intensity levels of college sports. This “sports professionalization” says Timothy Neal, a professor of health and human performance at Concordia University Ann Arbor, is a trickle-down effect of big-time sports, from professional to college and now to high school. More students are specializing in only one sport and playing it beyond one season, sometimes competing on multiple teams throughout the year. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found in 2017 that high-school, college, and professional athletes trained in a single sport for a comparable number of months each year. As “intensive parenting” has become the norm, parents in recent decades have pressed upon their kids the idea that endless practice is the route to athletic mastery. Private clubs and teams, which need income year-round to stay in business, have also urged this devotion to one sport.

This professionalization has led to overtraining and exhaustion, which is central to the mental-health problems of competitive high-school athletes. “The biggest problem is sleep loss—all these kids are sleep-deprived,” Mintz says, “and this becomes a major contributor to anxiety and depression.” Long practices and multiple daily workouts mean that athletes have less time than before for other activities, which can amplify the pressures of high school. “Do they need two and a half to three hours of practice?” asks Lonnie Sarnell, a sports psychologist in Millburn, New Jersey, who works with high-school athletes. “That extra hour of practice adds so much stress when you have four hours of homework to deal with.”

All that extra time practicing makes players more vulnerable to injuries, which can be another emotional challenge, especially for those whose identity is closely tied to the sport they play. Some athletes who drop other interests and activities to focus on a sport, and whose self-worth is linked to their performance, can feel lost when they’re sidelined; it’s the rudderless feeling Isabella experienced after tearing her ACL. On top of these strains, teenage athletes have to contend with ordinary frictions that come with being on a team—worries over playing time, making mistakes, and working with difficult coaches. These challenges are only more fraught for players with grand athletic goals.

Parents bear some responsibility for the tension kids feel. Children suffer when mothers and fathers insinuate that every competition or game is vitally important and that the only path to athletic excellence is through relentless training, says Lisa Damour, a psychologist and the author of Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. “The situations where sports cause more stress than relief is when there’s a bad fit between the coach and the player or between parents and coaches,” she told me. High-school athletes can also sometimes feel the burden of their parents’ athletic history—what Damour called the “ghosts on the sidelines.” Some parents get their ego needs met through their kids. Fixated on their child’s athletic achievements, they can overlook the young person in front of them. For some parents, Mintz says, “it’s about getting A’s and making the all-star team.”

Parental pressure doesn’t have to be overt or heavy-handed for it to have an effect on a high-school athlete’s mental health. Aware of how much their parents have sacrificed in time and money, some teenagers will persist in playing a sport long past the time they enjoy it, even continuing to practice and compete while injured, says Jay Coakley, a sports sociologist at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. If players do finally quit, they sometimes feel like failures for letting their parents and teammates down, which can contribute to self-destructive behavior.

Apart from parents, though, belittling by coaches can be another strain. Riley, who is being identified by her middle name so that she can speak openly about her mental health, told me how her high-school coach erupted at runners when they under performed, and sometimes ignored them for days as punishment. He encouraged teammates to compete against one another, shunned less talented athletes, and drummed in the need for “mental toughness,” she told me. “We accepted the intense anxiety before races and practice as a necessary side effect.” By her junior year, Riley was deeply depressed and struggling with suicidal thoughts. She ended up transferring to another high school.

But getting parents and coaches to chill out about high-school sports will only go so far in improving athletes’ mental health. Teenagers sense that the country has split into winners and losers, and believe that getting into the right college is a ticket to future security, says Victor Schwartz, the chief medical officer at the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that works to protect the mental health of young people. Just as getting a B on a test can trigger panic, flailing on the basketball court or striking out during an important game can seem more consequential than it is. “Kids have come to feel that the stakes are higher and higher, and that there’s less room for mistakes,” Schwartz told me.

Colleges might give some insight into how to fix this problem. After the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s chief medical officer discovered in 2014 that mental-health worries topped the list of student-athlete concerns, college-sports programs started to address the problem by adding therapists to athletic offices, screening players for anxiety and depression, and educating staff about how to identify mental-health issues.

These steps could ratchet up the pressure on high schools to follow suit, says Shane Murphy, a sports psychologist based in Danbury, Connecticut. “What happens at the college level will trickle down to high school,” he told me. “Over the next decade, we’ll see much more priority given to the mental health of high-school student athletes.” For coaches, this might mean training in “mental-health first aid” so that they are better able to read and respond to signs of emotional distress among their players. Jolee Paden, a high-school cross-country coach in Washington, D.C., took an eight-hour class on addressing players’ mental health and told me that it helped her unpack the stereotypes surrounding mental illness and develop a vocabulary for addressing the problems she sees. Paden now feels confident that she’ll know what to do if one of her players starts to struggle. “I walked away with some actual tools for responding rather than far-off theories,” she said.

Now a junior in college, Isabella plays intermittently for her university’s lacrosse team. She’s no longer a star, but neither is she unmoored. The emotional turbulence she experienced during high school jolted her into thinking about what she wants out of life beyond success on the lacrosse field. “I still don’t know what I want to do career-wise,” she said. “Now I’m putting more emphasis on that. I’m trying to figure out what I like, and what kind of person I want to be.”

Why Are So Many Teen Athletes Struggling With Depression?
When high-school sports replicate the training methods and intensity seen at the college level, players feel the toll.
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Beyond the Brink

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Feb 19, 2020 11:59 am

Beyond the Brink

Many of us have heard the stories about former professional football players and how the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—which as of now can be diagnosed only after death—is associated with repetitive hits to the head. More recently,research from the Boston University CTE Center has shown that every 2.6 years of football play doubles a person’s risk of developing CTE, regardless of whether they ever play professionally or not.

For parents struggling with the question of whether to let their children play football, CTE may seem like an abstract risk. But in talking with CTE expert Ann McKee—a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, a BU School of Medicine professor of neurology and pathology, director of BU’s CTE Center, and chief of the Neuropathology Service at the VA Boston Healthcare System—the disease becomes less abstract and more tangible, especially as she shows us human brains, including that of the late former New England Patriot football player Aaron Hernandez, that reveal CTE’s telltale brown stain of toxic protein tangles called tau. What’s most striking? These severe cases of CTE contain brain tissue changes that are clearly visible to the naked eye.

“I’m a huge football fan, I’ve been watching the games for decades… and I had no clue [the players] were getting brain trauma,” McKee says.

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“I haven’t been on the ice in a while because I was out with a concussion"

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:57 pm

“I haven’t been on the ice in a while because I was out with a concussion"

The section quarterfinal game between No. 5 Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato and No. 4 Delano/Rockford was a game of runs.

Both teams came out playing hard and giving great effort, the team that scored the opening goal was going to have the advantage for the game. It got to the final minute of the opening period when the Dragons got the all-important first goal.

“Since we haven’t scored on (Delano) this year that was really big to break that barrier,” goalie Avery Stilwell said. “I think it really added a lot of hope. It really made us feel like we can do this if we keep playing like we are.”

It was a perfectly executed 3-on-2 break, with captain Sophia Hillmann doing a stop-and-pivot at the left faceoff zone to shake her defender. Hillmann then dumped it to an open teammate in front of the net whom Delano goalie Grace Glasrud collapsed to, then the teammate saw senior Alyssa Olson wide open right next to her to give L/DC the lead.

The lead didn’t last long, however, as Delano scored twice in the second period to take the lead. The first goal was a nice shot from Chloe Kuechele who squirted the shot through Stilwell’s legs. But the go-ahead goal was one of skill. Annika Reierson led the break from center ice and carried the puck down the middle to right above the faceoff zones. She put a wrist shot on-net, and it pinged off the top post, went straight up in the air and came straight down behind Stilwell for Delano to take the lead.

Sometimes all you need is a crazy bounce.

“Sometimes you make your own luck.” L/DC head coach Brett Damerow said. “The girl... she’s a big, tall girl, very strong. When you have those kind of tools and you shoot like that, you get those bounces every once-in-a-while.”

Just as Delano seemed ready to pull away, controlling the puck and getting deep in L/DC’s zone, the Dragons created a little bit of their own luck. With 11 minutes left in the game, senior Grace Walsh scored the biggest goal of her career as she tied the game going five-hole on Glasrud.

“It was super exhilarating,” Walsh said. “It was an important step in the game. There was definitely new life. Everybody had a different sense of energy and urgency when they were on the ice after the goal.”

The game went to overtime, with a chance for the Dragons to make history and advance in the section tournament. But Delano controlled most of the overtime period, allowing just one shot in the period.Taylor Michael scored the game-winner with just a minute-and-a-half left in overtime to send Delano to the next round.

Through a season of ups-and-downs, the the Dragons did a great job of peaking at the end of the season.

“I haven’t been on the ice in a while because I was out with a concussion,” Walsh said. “Being able to get back on the ice again was super exciting, and knowing that it was probably the last time I got on the ice, I wanted to make it count as much as I could.”

Six players will graduate this spring, many of them being frontline players. L/DC will have a tough task of trying to replace those players, but with a strong junior group returning, there is plenty of optimism that next year the team can take the next step and win a section game. And who knows, maybe even more.

“We just have to find that happy medium where we can win and compete in the top games,” Stilwell said. “But also take care of the lower games. We lost a few of those that we probably could have had. I think just being able to keep the momentum from this year while showing improvement overall.”

GIRLS SECTION HOCKEY: Delano slays Dragons in opening round
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Girl Hockey Players Face Higher Risk Of Concussions, Study Finds

Post by greybeard58 » Fri Feb 21, 2020 4:22 pm

Click on the link at the end to watch the video

Girl Hockey Players Face Higher Risk Of Concussions, Study Finds

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every team at the annual girl’s high school hockey tournament has one thing in common when they step on the ice: An increased awareness of concussions.

For Andover junior varsity hockey player Emma Tammi, hockey’s not just a sport. It is as much a part of her life as eating and sleeping. And yet she didn’t quite realize that until one day last winter, when hockey went away.

“The day before I fell at the game, I slipped on ice at my house and hit the back of my head,” she said. “I just kind of stayed at school thinking nothing of it. I was like, ‘Oh I’m fine, I can play tomorrow. And then I tripped over a girl’s stick and fell and hit the side of my head, and I remember getting up and everything was spinning.”

Tammi had all the symptoms of a concussion: Sensitivity to light and sound, and the inability to focus. She spent two and a half months getting back everything she took for granted.

“I felt really disconnected from everyone, and I just started isolating myself,” she said. “I just got really sad during that period.”

A Minnesota Department of Health study found girls, particularly girls who play hockey, are more likely to get a concussion than boys. Brain surgeon Dr. Uzma Samadani says it’s part biological. Boys have stronger necks and thicker skulls.

“And then there are other differences,” Dr. Samadani, who practices out of CentraCare, said. “From a young age, many boys engage in rough play. They tackle each other. They learn to tumble. Many girls don’t do this.”

So what should parents do?

Samadani does not suggest ruling sports out completely. After all, her son plays football.

“We don’t want to deprive our children of that,” Samadani said.

Instead, she encourages parents to get their kids to talk about it.

“We need to have a clear dialogue,” Samadani said. “We should have a dialogue about everything, you know, about drugs, about smoking, about driving. But definitely about brain injury.”

It’s a lesson Tammi definitely learned.

“I feel like that’s one of the biggest issues with concussions— not telling people,” she said. “Because you want to play, but you have to realize it’s your brain, and that’s the center of your body. You need that for the rest of your life.”

Girl Hockey Players Face Higher Risk Of Concussions, Study Finds
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