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When a Concussion is not a Concussion

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Has anyone checked the league's official injury report lately and read what is says about Matt Cullen's current status? He is still listed as having an "illness". While teams in the NHL have always been secretive regarding players and their specific ailments, this isn't exactly the same as calling a routine sprained toe, a "lower body injury".

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Cullen had to suffer a concussion last month after being knocked unconscious to the ice by Colton Orr.

Luke DeCock touches about this subject in an article from last week. Here is an excerpt...

"While the team continues to say Cullen has an "illness," the evidence indicates beyond a shadow of a doubt that Cullen did in fact suffer a concussion when he was on the receiving end of Colton Orr's fearsome hit a week ago. Now, he's back to square one as far as his recovery is concerned."

So, why the mystery about all of this?

Yesterday, James Mirtle went into even more detail with this report, James Mirtle: Cullen and the C-word. James asks some valid questions in his article....

"If it's the result of a hit, it's a concussion â€" not an illness. That's just not acceptable, and someone involved with the league or the PA needs to intervene.

Either Cullen had taken the baselines tests and passed before he played in this game, or he didn't take them at all. Gagne took one and passed before his initial return, and like Cullen, had to return to the sidelines.

Is the test not working, or not being used?"

In one case that I am aware of, Aaron Ward reportedly was suspected of having a concussion but refused to take the baseline test in fear that he would fail it. He was back on the ice for the next game.

In Cullen's case it appears to be a similar story, otherwise he probably wouldn't have been able to return for the game on New Year's Eve. But who makes these decisions, the player or the team? If the player calls the shots, is he really in the position to make important decisions like these after receiving a hard knock to the head? If the team makes the reporting decision, what do they base their reasoning on?

Another confusing aspect to this, is that there are inconsistencies in reporting from player to player. For instance prior to Cullen being hurt, Chad LaRose and David Tanabe were both reported as having concussions. There was no delay at all in reporting this news. Both had allegedly failed their respective baseline tests.

So again, why the mystery regarding Cullen and his injury?

Some people have suggested that the players themselves are the ones who hold back the information, in fear of being labeled as being prone to concussions. While I can understand that one wouldn't want that stigma attached to their name, is it wise to put one's reputation above the importance of possibly jeopardizing one's health? Again, maybe the players shouldn't be calling the shots regarding this, if they are indeed making those decisions.

As Mirtle points out, this is a league wide problem, not just Carolina's. Philadelphia has been just as inconsistent with their reports about Gagne, but most recently reported Lupul as suffering from a concussion. Why do they report differently from player to player?

One would expect the league to step in and make some sort of uniform requirement regarding this, especially taking into consideration the lasting and serious damage that concussions can cause. Also if players return too quickly, they can prolong or intensify their symptoms.

But when the league does nothing to protect it's players from these types of injuries in the first place and refuses to make questionable high hits illegal, of course it isn't going to change the way that it makes teams report or care for the injuries.

Hopefully, Matt Cullen has some chicken soup and recovers from his "illness" quickly.