Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Playing Scared: Safety in Ultimate


A very scary incident happened in the world of hockey this Sunday. Florida Panther Richard Zednik took an teammate's skate to the neck area and almost completely severed his external carotid artery. Luckily, he was taken care of immediately and is in stable condition.

One of my favorite teammates asked me to write a post on this, focusing on whether Zednik should quit. His take was that Zednik should definitely quit. The man has made a lot of money, he's 32 and he should get out of the game. I took the opposite perspective- It was a freak accident, and he could play for 10 more years with minimal chance of that happening to any player in the league.

Simon Teather versus Invictus, Nationals 2007
Photo source: Ultypics and Corry Berghout

But, there's more of an issue than probability of reinjury. We're also talking about the mental well being of an athlete after an incident like this.

Competitive Ultimate, like many sports, puts a value of precieved "toughness" of teams and players. This past season, I noticed that there are players who suffered head injuries as the result of collisions, layouts, and so on. Concussions are a serious business. At least two of my teammates last summer suffered prolonged time off due to concussions. As much as the team/program needed them, I hate to think that ultimate will lead to increased risk of mental illness at a later age, or force some ex players to suffer from the affects long after their careers. I don't want to have a former teammate suffer the same side effects Al Toon does.

If a player suffers an injury, it is hard to walk away from the sport. However, it might be better than playing scared. You can't play Ultimate when you worry about getting hurt. Rather, you can't play it well.

What about Zednik?

My stance is still that he should return, with a neck brace for physical/mental protection. However, Montreal fans remember that Zednik was a rising star before suffering a devastating concussion at the hands of Boston defenseman Kyle MacLaren. (pictured)

Thus, I don't think he'll be back.

Like Zednik, Ultimate players suffering from dangerous injuries fight the battle of love of the sport versus quality of life/fear of reinjury

Where do you draw the line? When would you walk away?

1 comment:

Hodge said...

Not to nit pick, but...

The aorta is in the heart and pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body. Zednik had his external carotid artery severed.

Crazy accident, as for him retiring, I agree, I don't see him making a full recovery to the point where he can play not being worried about that happening again. Although you never know, look at Franchise! You can take the slant that his injury didn't happen on the Ultimate field but a major injury is a major injury.