Do the NHL and Hillary Clinton Have Something in Common?

Jonathan Toews can say he knows how Hillary Clinton feels. Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t heard, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton isn’t feeling well. Last month, being ill and dehydrated, she fell and suffered a concussion. Over the past weekend, doctors discovered a blood clot, brought on by the illness and made worse by the concussion, in a vein running between her brain and skull. No damage done, thankfully, and she’s predicted to make a full recovery.

Unfortunately, Secretary Clinton now has something in common with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, Chris Pronger and David Perron. All of them are or were concussion patients, and Secretary Clinton has a long recovery ahead of her. But her story can be a good lesson for the NHL.

There are already protocols for the assessment of concussions, but in cases such as Toews and Crosby, lingering effects of post-concussion syndrome can evade those protocols and allow players to return to the ice when they aren’t fully symptom-free. Another side of the concussion controversy is the very nature of a concussion itself, where symptoms can be delayed and come well after the initial hit. In Toews’ case, he tried to fight the increasing symptoms until he was benched nine days later.

How can the league use the story of Hillary Clinton’s concussion? First, the players should be made aware of the risks they take by ignoring or dismissing symptoms. It’s not enough for them to know the long-term effects of concussions. They must also know that even small problems with vision and balance can be a residual form of post-concussion syndrome, and trying to hide them can be just as harmful as ignoring headaches and dizziness.

Second, and most importantly, the league can strengthen concussion protocols by testing to catch those elusive symptoms and treat them before declaring a player medically cleared to play. Those little things can cause problems on the ice, and players who try to compensate for them may do more harm than good. Secretary Clinton would not have known about that blood clot had she not had a follow-up MRI that caught it in time.

Let’s hope that Secretary Clinton makes a speedy recovery. Let’s also hope that the attention her condition gets is taken to heart by the NHL and used to make the necessary changes to its protocols. It’s important to minimize the occurrence of concussions, but lessening the long and short term effects of them when they happen should be important as well.

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