For Smith, there was a lengthy battle to get back to where he could even feel somewhat normal.
“I went for over an 18-month span where I couldn't work out, really couldn't do much of anything,” Smith said. “The only time you feel good is while you're sleeping. Throughout the day, it seems like the pain gets worse and worse. It gets better as you sleep, but then when you get up, as you do more activities, it gets worse and worse.
“You get up every day hoping that it's going to clear.”
When his symptoms grew unbearable, Smith took drastic measures in an attempt to relieve his agony.
“I remember going into the closet just to be in complete darkness and be away from the pain,” he said.
The long road back is a never-ending one, for there is no finish line for sufferers of post-concussion syndrome, only the hope that someday, they'll get to a comfort zone and be able to function again.
“It's a brain injury and, like any other brain injury, brain functions don't regrow,” Smith said. “There's no permanently coming back from this, but I guess I got back as close as I can to normal.
“I've never been completely clear. I still have sensitivity to light. I still have some fogginess on some things. If I really push myself physically, then it starts to feel like it used to be.”
Another thing we know for sure about concussions — those who suffer from them on a persistent basis are never again the same player. Let’s go down the list: Primeau, Eric Lindros, Pat LaFontaine, Scott Stevens, Simon Gagne, Patrice Bergeron, Savard — all multiple concussion sufferers, all of whom became shadows of the player they used to be.
Generously listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, Crosby plays with a physical style and is willing to mix it up with much larger players. That will put him in more precarious situations than a player who seeks to avoid hockey's high traffic areas. That he always seems to have the puck also puts him in more danger of physical contact. And you also have to wonder how long-term damage from brain trauma might impact his incredible vision on the ice and his Albert Einstein-like hockey IQ.
Crosby wouldn’t be the first NHL superstar to see his career disrupted by serious injury. As great as Bobby Orr was, were it not for the knee injuries that literally tore apart his incredible speed and shiftiness on skates, ending his career at 30, who knows how much more he would have rewritten the record book?
Lindros was the Crosby of the 1990s. The NHL wanted to hitch its wagon to the man deemed The Next One, but when concussions turned the hulking power forward into a periphery player, he faded from the headlines.
Now the hockey world waits with justified concern as to the future of Sid The Kid.
Only 23, it’s quite possible that we may have to accept the reality that when Crosby eventually comes back, we may have already seen the best of him as a player.
That’s sad news for Sid, and a horrifying reality for the NHL to consider.
PHT: Tuukka Rask has frustrated the Blackhawks to the tune of a 1.22 GAA and .959 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Final. Can Chicago find any luck in Game 4?
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