As the injury count mounted for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, so did the questions from readers regarding the decisions to allow the wounded to continue playing.
The controversy actually started with a player missing a game. Marian Hossa was a late scratch from Game 3 with what was described by coach Joel Quenneville as an “upper body injury.” After the conclusion of the series, media reports indicated Hossa was actually experiencing numbness in one of his legs due to a low back injury.
In the immediate aftermath of Hossa sitting, former Hawk and current CSN New England analyst Tony Amonte questioned Hossa's toughness. If in fact he resumed playing with a numb leg, I would question Hossa's — and the Hawks' — sanity.
However, since I don't know for sure the nature of Hossa's injury, I will reserve judgment.
As I will in the cases of Jonathon Toews and Andrew Shaw, who were injured in Games 5 and 6, respectively.
Toews sat on the bench for the entirety of the third period of that game and Quenneville acknowledged the captain had had his “bell rung.” However, he returned to action for the clincher in Boston.
Shaw was struck in the face — point blank — by a puck shot by Bruin Shawn Thornton and collapsed to the ice, apparently — if only briefly — unconscious. However, he returned as soon as the resultant laceration was stitched up.
As for his return and Toews', I examined neither and the Hawks aren't talking about subsequent symptoms — if any — and the results of diagnostic testing.
The Bruins, though, did talk — long after the fact — regarding their own injured star, Patrice Bergeron.
Like Toews, he was injured in Game 5, seriously enough to be transported immediately to a Chicago hospital by ambulance. Released when the initially suspected injury — a bruised or lacerated spleen — was ruled out, Bergeron was cleared to play in Game 6.
Bergeron took the ice with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage and torn chest muscles.
Injected with pain-killing medication to get on the ice, he suffered a separated shoulder in Game 6 and, after the loss, was admitted to a Boston hospital with a partially collapsed lung. Bruins officials variously speculated that the lung collapsed as a result of the injection, the fractured rib, and/or the hit which caused the separated shoulder — but the lung didn't collapse until after the game ended.
Give Bergeron kudos for toughness. But not for brains.
Worse was the conduct of Bruins management and sports medics who green-lighted Bergeron playing. He never should have been allowed on the ice regardless of the stakes. The injuries and/or the treatment — a needle to the chest — didn't just risk further injury. The separated shoulder. They risked his life. The collapsed lung. The Blackhawks can't be accused of that.
At the highest level of sport, one would expect the highest level of medical care. Except, perhaps, in some quarters of Boston. Or at the Tour de France, where Tony Martin was racing last week just one day after losing consciousness twice in the wake of striking his head in a severe fall. But that is another issue for another column.
John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.