The bad news is that Patrice Bergeron  is still battling the recurrent, nagging headaches that typically linger after suffering a concussion brought on by a violent NHL  collision gone wrong. The two-way center is not going to be in the lineup when the Bruins and Penguins  face off against each other at the TD Banknorth Garden  on New Year’s Day, and there’s a strong possibility the calendar could be into February or March before he’s again donning the Spoked B in an NHL  game.
But…the 23-year-old center also received some encouraging news last week as well when he met with Bruins team physician Dr. Peter Asnis and noted Boston neurologist Dr. Robert Cantu. Cantu related to Bergeron that “99 percent” of NHL players would have similarly suffered a significant concussion in the manner of collision that saw the side of Bergeron’s face smack into the unforgiving shoulder pads of Dennis Seidenberg  with such violent force.
Cantu’s statement was meant to assure Bergeron that his second concussion wasn’t the sign of a player that’s becoming more and more succeptible to head injuries and hockey dings — as players like Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine both became increasingly fragile when a career full of head hits began to take their toll. The concussion was instead simply another stroke of bad luck for a player chock full of the stuff over the last calendar year. Cantu’s assessment of the hit and the damage done, according to Bergeron’s agent Kent Hughes, was encouraging to Bergeron, who might have understandably feared that he could become another cautionary concussion tale in the NHL.
Here’s a quick Q&A with Hughes, who gave an update that should put a little skip in the step of Bruins’ fans hoping that Bergeron can make another heroic hockey return sooner rather than later. It seems — reading between the lines of what Hughes is saying here — that a six week absence might be a reasonable span of time if Bergeron continues to improve at his current rate, but that’s still very much in question.
As Hughes correctly states, it’s always uncertain when it comes to a timetable for the brain’s healing process. So we’ll wait and see. Here’s Hughes:
How is Patrice doing? KH: He’s doing well. This injury is not of the same severity as the last one that he suffered.
Is he still experiencing the headaches at this point, or are they starting to dissipate? KH:I just got back into town so I haven’t checked in with him [Tuesday] on the symptoms, but the neurologist told him that the concussion he suffered the first time around was not necessarily the contributing factor in this one. [The neurologist said that] the hit that he took would have caused a concussion in 99 percent of the people that were on the receiving end whether they had previously been concussed or not.
That’s good news…KH:As far as concussions go, most don’t have a timeline in terms of recovery because it’s really a question of the brain and how it responds. That’s the experience I’ve had with all of my clients dealing with concussions, as well as with Patrice last year. It’s something we really went back and forth with [Bergeron] last year. You typically wait for the person to be asymptomatic at rest for a period of time and then you introduce some physical activity. Then you see if the player has a relapse of any kind with the post-concussion symptoms. That process continues until the athlete can go through the whole course of physical activity without any relapse.
And the recovery seems to be very much on a case-by-case basis. KH: Yeah, and the other integral part is that there really isn’t really any kind of time frame like with an ACL tear, whether it be a short or long. You know how badly you tear your knee and you know that you can potentially miss an entire season because of an injury.
The problem with the brain injury is that the majority of concussions don’t show up on any kind of imaging. They really rely on how the brain responds. At the outset you could say it’s a three-week injury, but it could be one week or it could be six weeks depending on the brain and the body and how they react to the physical activity. It could be six [weeks], or it could be longer.
The doctor believes that whether he’d suffered that previous concussion or not, he was very, very likely to suffer a concussion after the hit he took [against Carolina]. There are some guys you see that have been concussed so many times that the slightest hit dings them, or whatever. Patrice Bergeron is really a little bit of a victim here in that he’s taken two really bad blows in a span of only about 30 games. It’s a really physical sport, but it’s not often you take two blows like that in such a short span [of games]. There are some [players] that, for lack of a better term, have softened and are susceptible and it might not take such strong blows to cause a concussion.
How is Patrice’s state of mind as he’s handling all of this a second time around? Is he angry? Frustrated? Is he encouraged by the news from the doctor? KH: Yeah. I was with him on Saturday and there was certainly a level of frustration with him because he was concerned about when he can go [and play]. I think there was also a level of enthusiasm after what he learned [from Cantu and Asnis].
I think the last time around there was a series of moments where he would improve steadily and then he would be down if he there was a setback. My guess is that this time around he’ll be a bit more guarded in reacting to how the process is going, and just let the healing process take its course.