Don’t Play Head Games: Take Concussions Seriously

While checking out your helmet for this upcoming year, take a look at what Ian Laperrière has to say about head injuries: Montreal native and former Avalanche right winger Ian Laperrière, known as “Lappy” to fans, has endured his share of injuries over his 16-year NHL career, beginning in 1994 with the St. Louis Blues, moving briefly to the New York Rangers, and then with the Los Angeles Kings for eight years. In 2004, he signed with the Avalanche, where he quickly became a fan favorite and valued teammate. In 2009, Lappy went east, to the Philadelphia Flyers, and in a November game against the Buffalo Sabers, he was hit in the face with the puck while attempting to block a slap shot. The blow knocked out seven teeth and required 70 stitches. He later returned to the game. The Hockey News honored him as the “toughest player in the NHL.”

Lappy knows injuries — including concussions — come with the territory. “It’s the nature of the sport, and a choice we make,” he says. “We take pride in playing injured and playing through pain. But you also have to think about consequences. A shoulder or knee, you can always get fixed … but your brain, you don’t want to mess with it.” Even the league’s leading tough guy, it seems, knows that head injuries are nothing to play around with.

Laperrière came face to face with that reality during the most recent Stanley Cup playoffs. In a game against the New Jersey Devils, he again took a puck to the face. This time, it caught him in the forehead, between his right eye and the lip of his helmet. The result was a concussion and a brain contusion. That one was different than others in my career,” he says. “When they tell you you’re bleeding in your brain, it puts everything into perspective. I’m a father of two, a happily married man.”

Lappy eventually returned to the playoffs, though he now always wears a protective face shield. As the oldest player on the Flyers’ roster (he’s 36), his days in the NHL will come to a close sometime in the foreseeable future, and he looks forward to a happy — and healthy retirement back in Colorado. “We really enjoyed our time out there and were sad to leave,” he says. “I really liked Denver and the fans. It was awesome.” The mountains and Colorado’s active lifestyle don’t hurt either, he says.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Peter Bronski and Denver Magazine for sharing this story. Click here to read the entire story about concussions in youth sports and what can be done about it.

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