The man with the actual medical degree and years of experience has spoken publicly, and now we have a still-muddied but clearer picture than before of the paths Marc Savard’s situation might go down.
Of course, when it comes to concussions and headshots, even after the doctor speaks, the future can still be as messy as the streets of Beacon Hill after last week’s snowstorm. So there’s an element of limbo here.
Nonetheless, the Bruins team physician Dr. Peter Asnis and his colleagues aren’t telling Savard to retire, the star center isn’t ready to jump ahead to the end of his career yet and the team certainly isn’t pushing him out the door. So, we can all continue to watch how this plays without drawing our own conclusions.
Today the Bruins officially announced that Savard has been placed on Long Term Injured Reserve and will not return for the regular season or playoffs. Whether there will be a 2011-12 season or beyond for Savard remains to be seen. Right now, the doctors aren’t leaning one way or another.
“There is some literature regarding the reoccurrence of concussions and whether or not a concussion or a number of concussions pre-exposes you to be more prone to concussions in the future,” said Asnis during a TD Garden press conference with Savard and general manager Peter Chiarelli seated next to him at the dais. “There is some literature to suggest that that is the case. But again, each concussion is different, each patient is different. And we really have to treat them on an individual basis. And the literature … it’s not quite there to where we can make a broad comment about that. But certainly we worry about players that have had multiple concussions going forward.”
Along the same lines, Savard admitted he couldn’t express his thoughts about possible increased susceptibility to future concussions until he has more answers from the doctors. He is scheduled to undergo more tests in the weeks and months ahead.
“I can’t really answer your question because I’m not going to make any kind of decisions about my future until I get some more medical stuff done. So I’ve just got to be patient and wait until I’m feeling better,” said Savard, who earlier when asked about retirement explained “I’ve obviously tried to stay away from that right now.”
So there is still hope for a future with Marc Savard healthy and skating again in a Bruins sweater. Some players are able to keep returning after several concussions, and some have to cut their careers short. We know that Savard in his present state can barely live his life let alone play hockey at its highest level. He admitted today to sporadic headaches and dizziness. And then there was the scariest revelation of all.
“I think the thing that scares me the most is like little memory things,” he said, “where I forget that I’ve asked someone a question or little things like that that scare me.”
You can hear of Savard’s symptoms and declare he should hang up his skates. You can even do so with the disclaimer that it’s “for his own good.” The only thing, however, that’s for his own good is to leave him to his own devices. Let him see how he feels after extensive rest and recovery and after he has gone over all the possible scenarios with the medical staff.
Despite Savard’s glum look and the sad news about the rest of his season and his ongoing symptoms, there were some positive notes. Dr. Asnis explained that Savard has had seen some slight improvements in his condition. And the doctor also explained that while he can’t be 100 percent certain, the odds are that Matt Hunwick’s hit in Denver two weeks ago would’ve caused a concussion regardless of Savard’s history.
“Marc had complete relief of all his symptoms from last year. He sustained a hit that was an appropriate hit to cause a concussion [vs. Colorado],” said Dr. Asnis. “So, as you know, there’s certainly a lot of speculation about cumulative concussions. There’s a lot of research going on looking at that. But I think as far as this hit goes, he sustained a concussion that he likely would’ve whether or not he had a concussion last year based on [the Hunwick] hit.”
That Savard felt a “complete relief of all his symptoms” is another positive in the player’s favor. While he wasn’t completely symptom-free when he returned to action against Philadelphia in the playoffs, Savard was strong enough to make it through the seven-game series. He was then able to overcome his summertime bout with post-concussion syndrome enough to come back and play this season.
Now we’ll find out how he responds to some real down time. If everyone could go back and change the past, Savard would not have played in the playoffs and he would’ve – possibly – shown up for training camp with six months of rest behind him and his body ready to go full tilt. Maybe he would’ve taken more time off. We’ll never know.
The Bruins losing to Montreal in the ’08 playoffs was always a blessing in disguise when it came to Patrice Bergeron’s recovery. Without second-round games to try to play, Bergeron was able to continue his rehabilitation over the summer. Even then it took him months of playing to be himself again. The temptation to play at the first sign of improvement has now been removed from Savard’s equation. Over the next several weeks and months, we’ll get to see how far Savard goes in his recovery. This saga could end in premature retirement, or with an even more glorious ending than we got last spring when he scored the overtime winner against the Flyers.
Savard spoke of needing to take time and have patience, and quipped that he doesn’t have much of either. At 35, he realizes there are only a few years left for him to possibly excel at the NHL. And with the Bruins on the cusp of something magical, he obviously cannot wait until he can again be a part of it.
If we learned anything today, it’s that things aren’t as bleak as they could be. The doctors aren’t shutting Savard down for good and Savard’s not ready to give up hope yet. So we should all hold out hope as long as Savard does because, really, the only person that matters in this situation is Marc Savard. If he wants playing again to remain his ultimate goal, then we should let him have that.