RICE & MICE: Five for fighting and 6-8 weeks with a high ankle sprain

First overall selection in the 2010 entry draft and Edmonton Oilers’ star rookie, Taylor Hall, saw his season come to an end much earlier than the rest of his NHL counterparts.

It isn’t over because of a dismal season that saw the Oilers miss the playoffs. Hall is out for the remainder of the season with a high ankle sprain. He wasn’t battling along the boards or crashing the net when he was injured. Hall was injured while falling awkwardly in a fight with the Blue Jackets’ Derek Dorsett.

Reactions to Hall’s injury have ranged from applauding the young talent for sticking up for himself to outright anger that he put himself in a position (or fight) that resulted in a season ending injury.

Hall explained, “There comes a time when you have to,” said the 19-year-old. “There’s nothing wrong with sticking up for yourself. Eventually if you keep getting hit and people keep coming in for you … it’s not a great feeling when you’re that guy that keeps getting rescued. I was just trying to help out a little bit.”

Hall isn’t the first rookie to suffer an injury in a promising rookie campaign, either. In 2008, Columbus Blue Jackets center, Derick Brassard fought James Neal, then of the Dallas Stars and dislocated his shoulder.

Should the NHL’s star players engage in fighting? Should Taylor Hall have answered when a guy like Dorsett came knocking?

Hindsight is 20/20 and the repercussions of losing a remarkable rookie in the wake of an otherwise unremarkable season for the Oilers may be small. There would obviously be more concern if the Oilers were a middle-of-the-pack team teetering on the playoff bubble, fighting to prevent an early tee time at the conclusion of the NHL season.

St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie Broke his left ankle in a similarly-awkward fall during a scrum this past November. The Blues charged out of the gates early in this season; they were rolling along as one of the top teams in the league with the best start in franchise history. With Oshie out of the line-up, along with several other key players, the Blues promising season began looking not-so-promising.

New York Islanders goalie, Rick DiPietro is maybe the best example of a player that simply should not fight.

The former Boston University netminder and former top-overall pick in the 2000 draft has played a total of 13 games in the past 2 seasons due to various surgeries and injuries to his knee and both hips. He also has a history of concussions. He’s probably the last player that the Islanders want to see in a fight. He had to be held back in a heated game against the Flyers earlier in the season.

You remember, it was the game that took a turn from chippy to out-of-control and ended with Danny Briere on the wrong end of the disciplinary system that sentenced him to a 3-game suspension for a shot to the head of Frans Nielsen after the puck dropped for a faceoff in the right circle of the Flyers’ offensive zone. In the ensuing scrum, Chris Pronger ended up grabbing DiPietro before he could chase either Briere or Dan Carcillo down.

There was nobody there to hold him back from going toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh Penguins back-up goalie Brent Johnson at the end of a game in early February. Johnson took down DiPietro, who seemed to be smirking at the situation, with one punch to the face.

Hindsight evidently isn’t always 20/20; DiPietro said he has no regrets, “I am sick of losing, our team is sick of losing,” he said. “You never go into a fight expecting that you’re going to get smashed in the face that hard with these kinds of consequences, but it happens. He landed a good punch and you move on. I didn’t realize at the time that his arms were so long or that he could throw such a hard left punch, but I found both of those out pretty quickly. It’s a tough game and it’s a physical sport. Unfortunately my face paid the price.”

Commonly seen injuries from fighting include concussions, fractured facial bones, broken noses, broken hands, sprained wrists or fingers, dislocated shoulders, sprained knees and sprained or broken ankles. These injuries are no different than the injuries that occur in the course of play in a hockey game.

Fighting is a part of the game for now, but is it a necessary part of the game for all players? Going one step further, is it a part of the game that should involve the elite players of the NHL or should it be reserved for the enforcers and agitators of the league?

The enforcers and agitators do handle the majority of the fights in any given season, however it is possible that by doing so they run an entirely different risk of complications that may not surface until long after retirement. The late Bob Probert was 45 when he died of heart failure in June, 2010. 

Probert wanted his brain donated to science because he believed the head trauma he experienced on the ice had caused permanent damage. As it turns out, he was right. Examination of his brain tissue has concluded that he did, in fact, suffer from the brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that can cause dementia. As the name implies, CTE, results from repetitive traumatic brain injuries (remember a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury). 

If fighting can contribute to the developement of CTE, is it worth it?

Disclaimer: Information on found in RICE & MICE on flyersfaithful.com is not intended to be medical advice. Any information or materials posted on the web site are intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, medical opinion, diagnosis or treatment. Any information posted on the web site is NOT a substitute for medical attention. See your health-care professional for medical advice and treatment.

  • Bob H

    Always love reading these columns…

    The thing with Probert, above and beyond his CTE, was that his addictive behaviors, which stressed his heart, eventually killed him.

    Having just recently finished his book, I believe he could have stayed alive long enough to be a living specimen — not that I think they could have used him as a guinea pig and cut him
    open — but at the very least he could have submitted himself to CT scans and whatnot so that science could get a look at how CTE degenerates living tissue.

    At the end of the book, which portrayed the last days of his life, it seemed like his wife made a lot of deals with the Devil.

    Probert was addicted to OxyContin, and his wife had to hide them all over the house and portion them out like a chemist in Britian’s National Health doling out prescription heroin. He smoked at least 2 packs a day of Parliaments, and doing a little math, seemed like he drank at least 6-8 Cokes a day.

    While his dependency on alcohol and cocaine were finally addressed after years of trying, the actual behavior was never corrected. All of that clearly put too much strain on his heart muscle and tissue.

    To be honest, coupled with his need for speed, we’re lucky his brain was intact to donate to science instead of it being mangled in a speedboat or motorcycle crash.

    • http://flyersfaithful.com pavialax

      Thanks for your comments!

      I agree, it would be interesting to study the progression of CTE in a living person, however the trouble that CTE presents, much like Alzheimer’s disease, is that a diagnosis is usually made based on symptoms in an affected person, but that diagnosis is only confirmed in a post-mortem examination of the brain tissue.

      It would be interesting to take a guy like Keith Primeau, who has also committed to donating his brain to science like Probert and study him from now until his death to see what changes happen over time in his mental function. Unfortunately, CT scans and MRI’s aren’t useful for diagnosing CTE or monitoring the progression of the disease.

      Probert’s addiction problems raise countless questions about CTE and how early it can alter the mental function of an athlete. After all, they have detected CTE in guys as young as 18. Chris Henry was 26 when he died during that dispute with his fiancee in December 2009 and they found evidence of damage from repetitive head trauma in his autopsy.

      The brain degeneration of CTE causes memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, before progressing to dementia. I wonder how much of Probert’s addiction and questionable lifestyle choices stemmed from the damage to his brain from trauma in his 17 year NHL career and even before his NHL career.

      Reggie Fleming is the only other former NHL player found to have CTE, however he was also the first former NHL player whose brain was tested and studied for CTE.

      For a bit of information on the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy:
      http://www.bu.edu/cste/

  • Bob H

    Always love reading these columns…

    The thing with Probert, above and beyond his CTE, was that his addictive behaviors, which stressed his heart, eventually killed him.

    Having just recently finished his book, I believe he could have stayed alive long enough to be a living specimen — not that I think they could have used him as a guinea pig and cut him
    open — but at the very least he could have submitted himself to CT scans and whatnot so that science could get a look at how CTE degenerates living tissue.

    At the end of the book, which portrayed the last days of his life, it seemed like his wife made a lot of deals with the Devil.

    Probert was addicted to OxyContin, and his wife had to hide them all over the house and portion them out like a chemist in Britian’s National Health doling out prescription heroin. He smoked at least 2 packs a day of Parliaments, and doing a little math, seemed like he drank at least 6-8 Cokes a day.

    While his dependency on alcohol and cocaine were finally addressed after years of trying, the actual behavior was never corrected. All of that clearly put too much strain on his heart muscle and tissue.

    To be honest, coupled with his need for speed, we’re lucky his brain was intact to donate to science instead of it being mangled in a speedboat or motorcycle crash.

    • http://flyersfaithful.com pavialax

      Thanks for your comments!

      I agree, it would be interesting to study the progression of CTE in a living person, however the trouble that CTE presents, much like Alzheimer’s disease, is that a diagnosis is usually made based on symptoms in an affected person, but that diagnosis is only confirmed in a post-mortem examination of the brain tissue.

      It would be interesting to take a guy like Keith Primeau, who has also committed to donating his brain to science like Probert and study him from now until his death to see what changes happen over time in his mental function. Unfortunately, CT scans and MRI’s aren’t useful for diagnosing CTE or monitoring the progression of the disease.

      Probert’s addiction problems raise countless questions about CTE and how early it can alter the mental function of an athlete. After all, they have detected CTE in guys as young as 18. Chris Henry was 26 when he died during that dispute with his fiancee in December 2009 and they found evidence of damage from repetitive head trauma in his autopsy.

      The brain degeneration of CTE causes memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, before progressing to dementia. I wonder how much of Probert’s addiction and questionable lifestyle choices stemmed from the damage to his brain from trauma in his 17 year NHL career and even before his NHL career.

      Reggie Fleming is the only other former NHL player found to have CTE, however he was also the first former NHL player whose brain was tested and studied for CTE.

      For a bit of information on the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy:
      http://www.bu.edu/cste/

  • Bob H

    Now, on to the actual reason for the post…

    I don’t think Taylor Hall having to stick up for himself is the real concern, it’s the rising tide of ancillary injuries that crop up because of the fighting that should be considered.

    For me, it’s just another instance of the NHL missing the forest for the trees. The only real way to prevent sprains, ligament injuries, head injuries and any other hurt not caused by a hand punching a helmet or face is to draft smaller players.

    There’s a real danger now of legs being broken, or helmet-less heads hitting the ice or, in Hall’s case ankle sprains, resulting from players in a death clinch at the end of the fight who don’t know when to give up. Nobody needs to be pile driven into the ice, or twisted around into a pretzel.

    Pat Verbeek fought a ton, but he never managed to put someone out of commission if he couldn’t win.

    A parallel issue I have is the amount of grabbing and holding of jerseys during “fights” which has cropped up over the last 10 years.

    It looks to me that players are more susceptible to lasting damage when one combatant just grabs hold of a jersey and pulls in different directions to prevent being hit, instead of punching.

    Nobody ever tore an MCL or cracked their heads open when rearing back and throwing down, but you can get another player off-balance enough to twist a leg by just being strong enough to pull a jersey one way while the other player tries to shift his weight into a punch. I’ve seen several incidents of two “fighters” in a clinch after throwing a few punches, where one gets frustrated at being held and just slams the other one down to end the battle.

  • Bob H

    Now, on to the actual reason for the post…

    I don’t think Taylor Hall having to stick up for himself is the real concern, it’s the rising tide of ancillary injuries that crop up because of the fighting that should be considered.

    For me, it’s just another instance of the NHL missing the forest for the trees. The only real way to prevent sprains, ligament injuries, head injuries and any other hurt not caused by a hand punching a helmet or face is to draft smaller players.

    There’s a real danger now of legs being broken, or helmet-less heads hitting the ice or, in Hall’s case ankle sprains, resulting from players in a death clinch at the end of the fight who don’t know when to give up. Nobody needs to be pile driven into the ice, or twisted around into a pretzel.

    Pat Verbeek fought a ton, but he never managed to put someone out of commission if he couldn’t win.

    A parallel issue I have is the amount of grabbing and holding of jerseys during “fights” which has cropped up over the last 10 years.

    It looks to me that players are more susceptible to lasting damage when one combatant just grabs hold of a jersey and pulls in different directions to prevent being hit, instead of punching.

    Nobody ever tore an MCL or cracked their heads open when rearing back and throwing down, but you can get another player off-balance enough to twist a leg by just being strong enough to pull a jersey one way while the other player tries to shift his weight into a punch. I’ve seen several incidents of two “fighters” in a clinch after throwing a few punches, where one gets frustrated at being held and just slams the other one down to end the battle.