There’s no rush for Cody Hodgson to return

It was an extremely frightening sight: Cody Hodgson, while attempting to cut into the middle of the ice to avoid a Nick Foligno hit, toe-picked and tripped right into the oncoming Foligno, taking the full force of the hit directly to the head. Hodgson attempted to get to his feet, but seemed to skate like the ice wasn’t quite where he thought it should be, all with a giant smile on his face.

Though he was not knocked unconscious on the play, everything else about it screamed concussion. Hodgson had to be helped off the ice and didn’t return to the game, causing fans to fear the worst.

After the game, however, Alain Vigneault claimed that the young forward was “fine” and that “he wanted to play.” But he continued, “Our medical staff wanted to be extra careful.”

There are a number of reasons to be sceptical about this claim. First, the symptoms of a concussion can frequently be delayed by hours or even days. Second, the medical staff were obviously concerned enough to keep him from returning to the game. Third, teams around the NHL have been very reticent this season to report concussions, likely wanting to avoid the media circus that surrounded the recovery of Sidney Crosby. Chris Pronger, for instance, was originally reported as missing games due to a virus, but has now been upgraded to “concussion-like symptoms,” a catch-all term that was also used to describe James Reimer earlier this season.

The fourthreason is simply the visual evidence. Obviously, I’m not a doctor and even if I were, I wouldn’t be able to diagnose from afar. But Hodgson’s reaction to the hit parallels my own experience with a concussion.

I was 13 years old and was warming up for a baseball game in the afternoon. Both teams were out in the field as coaches hit long fly balls out to us. I was in line, waiting for my turn, when I heard a shout from the opposing team, saying “Heads up!” I looked up just in time to see a baseball coming straight for me. It hit me directly in the temple and I distinctly remember the following thought go through my head: Why is the world going sideways.

I hit the ground and was briefly unconscious. My first thought was Why am I looking at grass? Obviously, I was completely out of it and had no idea what had just happened. I struggled to my feet, smiled at my friends and my dad who had come rushing over, and assured them that I was fine. No big deal. Just took a flyball directly to the side of my head. Then I proceeded to stumble my way back to the dugout, all the while assuring everyone that I was completely fine.

I even insisted that I felt good enough to play in the game. If I recall correctly, my dad wouldn’t let me play, which was the right call. After a few days, I was actually fine and have never had any post-concussion syndromes or experienced another concussion.

He didn't quite smile this much, but it was close. Man, this kid just really loves playing hockey.

It wasn’t just the wobbly legs when Hodgson tried to skate off that worried me, it was the big smile. When you see players injure their legs, shoulders, or backs, it’s usually accompanied by a grimace. But a concussion can lead to a wide range of faces, from confusion to sheepishness. For Hodgson, it’s a smile that seems to be trying to assure his teammates that he’s fine, that he won’t miss a shift. It’s a smile that indicates he had no idea that he could barely skate.

I was immediately reminded of the way Jonathan Toews looked after being hit by Willie Mitchell. The way he wobbled is very similar, though Toews actually fell to the ice with no teammates there to help him to the bench as they instead focussed on going after Mitchell for a clean hit*.

The other interesting thing is Ray Ferraro’s commentary: “Toews came back to the bench, dropped a little bit of an expletive and said ‘I had my head down.’” His first response to the hit has nothing to do with a concussion, instead blaming himself for the hit. It strikes me as similar to Hodgson’s response: instead of thinking about a concussion, he’s smiling, perhaps thinking I can’t believe I tripped into that hit.

Toews missed 6 games with the ever-popular “concussion-like symptoms” which was the right thing to do. Those were the only 6 games he missed that season.

The Canucks should be very careful with Hodgson to ensure he has no symptoms of a concussion or even “concussion-like symptoms” as rushing him back could be dangerous. Fortunately, the Canucks are built in such a way that they can afford to be careful, as they already have an extra centre in the lineup. If necessary, Mike Gillis can call up Victor Oreskovich, Mike Duco, Mark Mancari, or a combination of the above to avoid Andrew Alberts playing forward, and simply have both Maxim Lapierre and Manny Malhotra centre the third and fourth lines.

If Hodgson is actually okay and passes all of the concussion tests with no issues, then this is all a moot point. Fortunately, the Canucks are in the middle of a two-day gap between games, which should hopefully allow any symptoms to manifest before he plays.

Hodgson has been very good this season – he’s currently 6th in rookie scoring and has helped make the second unit powerplay a more consistent threat – but he won’t be too terribly missed for a few games in the middle of December, particularly if it means he’s more likely to be healthy during April, May, and June.

*Incidentally, isn’t that moment emblematic of the difference between the two teams? While Chicago “supported” their teammate with ill-advised aggression, Vancouver literally supported their teammate.
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19 comments

  1. Josh
    December 12, 2011

    Here’s hoping CoHo is alright!

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  2. madwag
    December 12, 2011

    danielson

    not “even if i was” but “even if i were.” to be grammatically correct in this instance the subjunctive mood is required. otherwise an insightful post expressing a common sense approach to the situation.

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    • Steven Ray Orr
      December 12, 2011

      Pics or it didn’t happen! ;)

      It was hard enough watching that hit on my screen. Watching it in person? *shudder*

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    • madwag
      December 12, 2011

      well while you may object to my correcting danielson’s grammar, it is apparent he doesn’t mind as the error has been fixed.

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      • peanutflower
        December 12, 2011

        you sort of got disliked there for no real reason I think. bummer.

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  3. Dan
    December 12, 2011

    That’s me in the white Canucks jersey and Santa hat in the top picture. That was a scary thing to see in person.

    I hope he’ll be alright.

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  4. DanD
    December 12, 2011

    Concussions are scary! I once got a concussion while I was walking on a beach on Quadra Island. I slipped on some seaweed and hit the side of my head on a rock. I remember that I woke up not knowing how I got to the ground. I cried for a good two minutes before I went and found some help – it was that disorienting.

    Yes internet world, I cried.

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    • Nee
      December 12, 2011

      Thanks for sharing. I’ve never had a concussion before, but man they sound frightening.

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  5. The Bookie
    December 12, 2011

    Might not be concussions but I did just read one of the most amazing recovery stories yesterday, The description of smiling, embarassment, frustration and confusion brought it to mind. if anyone’s interested I highly recommend it:
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/friends-of-john-jeremiah-sullivan/feet-in-smoke/21392038820
    (excuse the facebook linkage, I don’t even have one but that’s how it was sent to me)

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  6. peanutflower
    December 12, 2011

    As much as I hate to admit it I have become a Coho believer. That was indeed a scary hit and the results were even worse to watch. I too would rather see Cody miss some time to make sure he’s okay because he will be needed later.

    I love your asterisked line *Incidentally, isn’t that moment emblematic of the difference between the two teams? While Chicago “supported” their teammate with ill-advised aggression, Vancouver literally supported their teammate.

    That to me says it all about my team. I always get the sense that they are in the game together, not as a bunch of superstars and then the rest. Love it.

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  7. Curious
    December 12, 2011

    Any word on Salo-Is-My-Pal-O contest??

    also, Cody did turn into that hit.. so its not suspendible, but it still made me want Foligno’s head.

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  8. Sach
    December 12, 2011

    I found his giant smile disconcerting too, especially when accompanied by the Bambi legs. Hope the kid’s alright, and love how the other Nucks supported and stuck up for him :D

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  9. Karen
    December 12, 2011

    I thought MayRay was Bambi? Wow, this hit makes me emotional. Thanks for comparing it to the Toews hit – you’re completely right, it pretty succinctly sums up what I love about the Nucks.

    Seeing the results of the examinations on Boogaard’s brain has spooked me (no pun intended). Hits like this add up – let’s hope Coho doesn’t have too many more tallies.

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    • Nee
      December 12, 2011

      That Boogard article in the NYT worries me too…I know we don’t have a traditional fighter on our team (they are going the way of the dinosaurs), but I do worry about a guy like Bieksa, who plays very physical and fights more than his team mates.

      I want to see a healthy 80 year old Bieksa, still smirking and lobbing one liners like a boss. : )

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  10. Gabrielle
    December 12, 2011

    I believe “sceptical” actually is spelled as “skeptical.” :)

    I really hope Cody is okay and I agree, there’s no reason to rush him back. He looked really dizzy.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      December 12, 2011

      Both are acceptable, but the more common spelling is “skeptical” in Canada. Oh well.

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      • peanutflower
        December 12, 2011

        just like it’s supposed to be “defenceman” in Canada, but we bow to the overly-American-ness of the NHL these days and write “defenseman”. oh well.

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  11. shoes
    December 13, 2011

    Kid should be fine. But they all seem to add up. I think everybody should be worried about Crosby as well, that is not looking good. While this hit was not particularly Folignos fault, he probably could have let up and the fact he did the same thing against Kesler later in the game tells me that besides having a face like 3 miles of bad road, he also has a bad attitude and is careless. BUT the real culprit is the “armour” that is worn to protect the elbows……………….90% of concussions stop when that goes back to “padding” on the elbow. No player will hit anothers head or helmut with a padded elbow as he may just finish his own career. It would stop concussions in one simple move. So the question has to be asked…..Why don’t they do take out the armour off shoulder and elbow pads? It is a well known discussion topic and the only reason elbow armour came in to the NHL is elbow injuries. and armour only arrived in the early ’90′s.? Before that, hockey was wicked good as well.

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  12. TJTHEDJ
    December 13, 2011

    I think that the Canucks have enough players that they can afford to ensure that COHO is not dealing with an ill effects from the hit and does not have concussion symptoms before he does in fact play again as he had been a very steady player for the team to this point of the season and would prefer to see him playing in Feb.Mar,and beyond. The hit was more to his own fault and therefore there is nothing that should be done by the league about it

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