Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dear Sidney Crosby

This is a pep talk (but not the encouraging kind)

Its about concussions. It has little to do with sports. But I guess you know very well, that those injuries don't stay where they originate - they press their way through your entire body and bully their way into your whole life. The concussion check-list of symptoms cannot stay compartmentalized in your brain (and if you disagree, please re-watch yourself in that third playoff game)

Sorry, I didn't mean to digress from giving you the most discouraging pep talk, I'll try to stay focused...

Here is the truth Sidney, you will never be understood.

Your doctors will have knowledge of your symptoms but they clock out and go home, they've never felt concussions. Your loved ones will try and they will comes close at times - they might get the emotional toll more than anything. Your critics and the opposing fans - fagetaboutit - you couldn't win with them when you were at your healthiest. Your team, your coach, your fans - they will only understand what you choose to show them. Therein lies the constant fork in the road where both paths are destructive.  Here is the truth Sidney, with concussions, its a lose lose situation.

One of those roads you can take is to show everyone exactly how you are feeling - put all the cards on the table. This seems like the right answer, right? Then people 'get' concussions. You have to show them and tell them because "you look so normal." But in reality this is a horrible option.

- Side effects are constant and NO ONE wants to hear about them all the time. Its tedious and uncomfortable. People hardly want to hear of good things all the time (you know that person that finished the 'tough mudder run' but wont stop telling you- its like that but with painful stuff.) Sid I have had years of test studies on this subject and trust me, the topic needs to be on a shelf.

- Side effects are horrible and make you miserable and you don't want to be that person. To show everyone how you are feeling, its like embracing a person you do not want to be. Irritable, short fused, cranky... those things are side effects of a head injury but if you act that way people don't understand and you are treated differently. So why not further more mis-understanding, stuff the emotions and try to still be the 'real you' as best as possible.

- Your deepest hope is to someday get better and leave all this crap behind you... so if you take the path of exposing all the concussion woes all the time, you run the very real risk of becoming defined by an injury you can never get beyond. (It sounds dramatic but you know its true, with all the great things you've accomplished, you don't want history to write you as "Sid the Concussion Kid")

Great - so its decided, you lose if you share, can't do that. And you didn't - you kept things quiet, you didn't complain. Your symptoms were vague and under wraps. AND YOU LOST, people criticized you for going on vacation while you where 'supposedly hurt'. People called you a baby. People said you were faking it.  All because you didn't share enough.

The other road you can take is swallowing all symptoms - showing none of your cards. This seems like a good answer, if you can manage it. But in reality its a horrible option.

- The healing brain takes a TON of energy. There is no tired like the fatigue of the concussed. So if you want to put all that very little, tiny, scant energy you have left into acting like you're fine - more power to you.

- The recovery in the days after being 'okay' from this option alone is enough to make you want to cry (oh wait, there is crying, lots of crying).

- You are shooting yourself in the foot here - because the people who see you looking well, playing like you used to play, acting fine - will never understand when you say "I need to rest today." And they will never have a mental image of what its like when you say "Its a bad day" if you only ever smile when you see them. You've deprived them of they ability to understand

Awesome - so you lose if you hide your feelings. And on sunday you didn't, you opened up. AND YOU LOST, in Game 3 emotions got the best of you - we all saw that rare moment were you became frayed at the edges. Immediately some people laid into you because they said you were trying to prove your critics wrong by fighting. Others said your play was not befitting of the C on your jersey. Some idiots people even said you don't have respect for concussions because you fought.

I won't get into all of that though, I'm still focused on bringing home this un-uplifting pep talk.

Sidney, knowing that people will never get it and knowing that you will never win is actually kind of liberating... because you can take everyone else out of the equation. They are all wasted energy - no one can be a convert, dust your feet, move on.

Sidney, play Game 4 tonight being true to your mental and physical well being. Play like a respectable captain of my beloved team. You might get zero understanding for what your going through, okay. Let that roll on by. You also might get glimpses of sympathy and moments of compassion - that's all bonus, hold onto it.

I said no one will understand you - but try not to isolate too much either - everyone you meet has stories of their own trials. Pain is Pain. I've found it helps to remind myself that I don't have it worse than people - my pains are just different.

Hopefully this can be one of those glimpses of sympathy I was talking about, hopefully you can hold onto it. -
I hit my head almost four years ago and lost a job I liked a lot (a job I was good at, a job I can't go back to, this fact still breaks my heart) -
I always knew 'the kid' would do everything he could to be on the ice - I knew that year away from a game you love was killing you. I'm sorry this all happened. I'm sorry people questioned something you dedicate your life to - something you hold dear.

Even I don't understand you. But I'm one more person in your corner.

the girl hoping and praying for four in a row


  1. Now you've gone and made me all choked up with your un-uplifting pep talk (which, if he actually read this, would probably be a lot more uplifting than the rah-rah crap he normally hears).

    Concussions are such a tough injury to understand for someone who hasn't suffered one, because they affect everyone in such different and sometimes invisible ways. I just spent time with a few high school kids being treated at a concussion center last week, and oh man, I could hardly keep it together -- one girl talked about how she was missing out on her senior year, how she was so happy before and now she's on antidepressants, how nothing feels the same. Those aren't even the physical symptoms. I can't imagine.

    I'm pulling for those kids, and Sidney (the original love of my life, Kyle's pretty cool too), and you. I can't understand, but I'm in their, and his, and your corner ;)


    1. Carrie, thank you for this - now you have me choked up.

      I love your post on this topic (and I love how you rally behind Sid)

  2. I wasn't crazy about the glove slap. I never associated that with his concussion problems, but with a champion's total and complete frustration with losing. If the Flyers had done it, it would have been one more reason to hate them and call them babies. But frustration happens to all the great ones.

    I attributed the fighting as an attempt to break the Flyers' momentum and to wake up his team. It was a "captain move" to put himself on the line in an attempt to change things. I'm not saying that makes it right, or that it was effective. But that's my way of putting it in the best light.

    Flyers look like the best team in the east right now. Four in a row would be incredible, but it would require both teams to completely change character.

    1. Tom that's a really good point.
      I don't want to explain away all Sidney's actions as saying 'its his concussion' - he is playing hockey.

      Its hard to verbalized how I feel but I'll try to share - my brain injury change me (in every category of my life) but not enough to be outside of the bell curve of societal norms (I was not deemed mentally retarded). I was hurt just enough to feel SO not myself (not in my memory, not in my emotions, not with my pain) but if I act not myself - other people may not see that because I'll still fall with in what is "acceptable".

      I can't speak for Crosby, but I can say this - his actions still fell within acceptable hockey rules in Game 3 - but after watching a number of games, over a number of years, his behavior that game felt different.

      I could very easily be looking from the lens of the brain injured and seeing what I choose to see - I don't disagree with you point at all.

    2. I feel for him -- and I'm sure you do, too -- when he says he doesn't feel right and can't play, while those around him may feel that there's nothing wrong with him. For an athlete, that's got to be horrible. I'm sure you've had to deal with people impatient for you to "just get better already." I can only imagine how hurtful that must be.