Football gets the bulk of attention when it comes to concussions and head injuries. Hockey also has its share of issues with head injuries. IceHogs and Blackhawks forward Brian Bickell has had multiple head injuries. One of them kept him from playing in the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
Bickell says he realized something was wrong in the Western Conference Finals against Anaheim.
“I got back to the bench and I was like, ‘I can’t go back out there.’ I played a period and I couldn’t skate around. I sometimes didn’t think (I knew) where I was,” says Bickell.
His main problem.
“Dizziness. Big-time dizziness.”
“I think was caused from hitting or getting hit,” says Bickell. “I’ve never had that feeling before. I wanted to play in the conference finals.”
At first Bickell thought he might be suffering from Vertigo, an inner ear problem that leads to dizziness, but a series of tests last summer revealed he had an eye issue.
“My neuro sight where the stem is coming from my brain sending signals to my eyes was off, so I was kind of, you know, you wouldn’t notice looking at me right now, but my eyes were kind of off-set. Trying to follow things going from left-to-right it was throwing everything out of whack.”
So Bickell’s doctor put him through weeks of eye exercises and therapy to restore his vision.
“He’d give me different things to help train my brain to do different things with my eyes and do different patterns and stuff like that,” says Bickell.
It was a lengthy process over the entire summer, but Bickell says he’s fine now.
“No issues. Clean,” says Bickell.
That blow in the playoffs last year isn’t the first blow to the head Bickell has sustained.
He’s a physical forward, not a finesse forward. He tells me that he’s had a handful of concussions in his career.
“You get hit and you feel dizzy for a couple seconds,” he says.
But Bickell also says he doesn’t consider any of his concussions to have been serious. “I didn’t have anything to the point where overnight and weeks upon where I couldn’t function or remember things.”
Bickell knows the recent information that’s come out about the potential long-term ramifications of blows to the head and the disease CTE. He knew Steve Montador well, the former Blackhawk who died last February. Tests on Montador’s brain showed that Montador had CTE.
Bickell says he’s not one of those athletes who tries to gather as much information and knowledge as he can about CTE.
“I don’t think about that. I don’t think to my extent it’s going to come down to it. Down the line it might come up, but hopefully, knock on wood, it doesn’t.”
Bickell has a wife, a small daughter and another child on the way, so he does think about the future and being able to provide for his family, but his main focus now is on hockey and being the best player that he can be each day.
“Play every day like it’s my last,” says Bickell.
Bickell turns 30 in March. He says he hopes to continue playing a few more seasons.