NHL Legend Eric Lindros Raises Red Flag About Concussions
Education and Advocacy Nine years after hanging up his skates, NHL legend Eric Lindros is active in promoting research into concussions, which took a serious toll on his career and are now a growing problem in sports at all levels.
Eric recently took some time out of his busy life as a father of three young children to discuss the most memorable moments of his time on the ice, the joy of sport, and the importance of rebooting your brain.
Mediaplanet What was the highlight of your hockey career?
Eric Lindros I am very proud to have had the opportunity to represent Canada at various levels of international hockey, from World Junior Championships at 16 years old to 3 separate Olympic games. I still wear my Canadian Olympic boots.
MP What was the lowest point?
EL Injury and the realization that although contributing, I was a shadow of my former self on the ice and was not enjoying the game anymore because of that.
MP What kind of impact did concussions have on your career?
EL There are many layers to this question. There is the physical impact, knowing that you aren’t able to play to the level you are used to; the mental impact, where you have fears of your future in life during — and after — hockey; and then the game impact, whereby other players take liberties knowing that you are playing with a dent in your armour.
MP How would your career have been different if you hadn’t suffered concussions?
EL I would have enjoyed the game more. I wouldn’t have had the fear of cutting through the middle of the ice in the second half of my career. I would have played more games and been able to contribute more.
MP What message do you have for professional and amateur athletes about concussions?
EL Concussions are a real and potentially life impacting injury. They should be taken very seriously. If they are diagnosed early and treated with caution, in all likelihood you will make a full recovery. It is a difficult message for competitive athletes to understand but in the long run, your mental health is more important than getting back into the game too soon.
MP Do you have a particular message you would like to send to kids playing sports or their parents?
Hockey is a wonderful game. The best game in the world in my eyes. That said, there are a few rule changes that I would like to see altered including rink width and the two line pass rule. The more space there is on the rink, the more space there will be for the players to manoeuvre.
EL Sports are fantastic and an important part of children’s lives. There are so many positive life lessons in sport — including teamwork, striving to be the best that you can be and of course, having fun. Concussions should not prohibit children from playing sports. Concussions are a risk in sport, just as they are with riding a bike and many other situations where accidents can happen. Know your child. Be aware of your child’s behaviour in their day-to-day demeanour. Make sure you are medically cleared before getting back into the game.
MP What development in concussion research are you most enthusiastic about and why?
EL Dr. Arthur Brown’s research at Western University, Robarts Research Institute. [Editor’s Note: Read more about Dr. Brown’s research on page 3]. It is the first time I have seen work that could result in a quicker recovery from concussion symptoms. I am excited to see the support from the NHL’s players association (NHLPA) towards evolving this research and hope that it will result in reducing long term effects of concussion and open the door to help in other areas of brain injury that is not solely concussion based: for example, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We need more funding to continue the research and I hope we can achieve those goals. I will continue my support of this world-class concussion research, care, and awareness. I truly hope we can make a difference.
MP Given that you’re a father now, how would you feel about your kids playing competitive hockey when they get older?
EL Hockey is a wonderful game. The best game in the world in my eyes. That said, there are a few rule changes that I would like to see altered including rink width and the two line pass rule. The more space there is on the rink, the more space there will be for the players to manoeuvre. If my three children decide to play, I would certainly be supportive and have a ball playing with them.
MP Is there anything you would like to say that these questions haven't touched on?
EL What we are finding now is that the brain degenerates when not given proper time to recover following a trauma. What I mean by that is if you play hockey from September–May and play another less impact sport during the summer — you are giving your brain a chance to reboot. Find other interests or activities and take a break from hockey. I played baseball in the summer and always took a break from hockey. I was also involved in a music program and I welcomed the break. Just because you have not received a knockout hit doesn’t mean that you have not had impact on your brain. The accumulation of several small hits can be more harmful then one big hit. Take a break.