This is how we react when confronted with the latest story about a professional athlete whose career has been potentially ruined by a concussion: We express our shared belief that something needs to be done about this, and then we wish the injured player good luck as he begins his new life after sports. But concussions are not the same as knee injuries, back injuries, leg injuries. Bobby Orr, for instance, has had a splendid career as a sports agent and businessman, despite all that hockey did to his knees. Don Mattingly would have been a Hall of Famer had not his back betrayed him, but it hasn’t stopped him from pursuing a managerial career and then there’s former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who suffered one of the most infamous injuries in sports history, this because it was live on national television, when he suffered a horrifying fracture of his tibia and fibula
Theismann never played again, but seamlessly transitioned to a lucrative broadcasting career. It’s not so easy with some of these athletes who suffer concussions. And for those of you who don’t understand this, listen to the words of the Bruins’ Marc Savard, whose career has effectively ended because of an injury we used to know nothing about . . . but now know, well, a little about. During a meeting with the media before the Bruins’ Original Six showdown against the New York Rangers yesterday afternoon at the Garden, Savard was asked about the issues he still faces on a day-to-day basis. He responded by pointing out that “a couple of my big ones are memory issues — still. Short term. I wasn’t a guy that forgot too much, and it seems like I’m forgetting my phone.” “My son played a game the other day, and I left the keys in the ignition in the car,” he said. “I turned it off, at least, but I went in and watched the game, and I was like, ‘Geez, where are my keys?’ ” Yes, we all leave our keys in the ignition. Except that, with Savard, “little things like that, that I would never do, keep happening,” he said. “Mornings are really tough on me.
Just getting the eyes going, getting the eyes open and going on. “And the weather changes we’ve had in Canada this winter, I think you guys have had the same,” he said. “Cold, hot. Rain, snow. It’s kind of giving me a lot of headaches. But the headaches have been more normal than what they used to be, so that’s OK.” The headaches have been more normal than what they used to be. How’d you like to be using that line as an indicator that your life is getting better? Savard was at the Garden yesterday, joined by a collection of kids from Boston Children’s Hospital who are recovering from head trauma and depression. They were all sitting in a private suite that Savard has rented for this season and next, to be used for this very purpose and that’s a really cool thing Savard does, using his name and his wallet in order that some kids whose struggles are similar to his own might enjoy a day of big-time hockey. We aren’t going to be seeing Marc Savard playing any more big-time hockey.
What we do want to see is a happy, healthy Marc Savard who can continue leading a productive, post-hockey life. Here’s hoping he has fewer and fewer days in which he forgets his cell phone. Here’s hoping he remembers to take the keys out of the ignition. Here’s hoping the headaches do not come and go with the changes in the weather. And here’s hoping that the people who run our sports leagues don’t take their collective feet off the pedal in the brave new world of Concussions 101. It wasn’t long ago that we didn’t speak much of concussions. We’d just say a guy “got his bell rung,” which, when you think about it, downgrades a serious sports injury into something from out of a Warner Bros. cartoon. We need for the likes of Marc Savard to keep reminding us how serious an issue this is.