By: Pierce Brody | Follow me on Twitter @PierceBrody3
Hockey is a rough sport at any level. Players across the National Hockey League have cemented their names in legend through their “rub some dirt on it” attitudes. A few recent examples are Patrice Bergeron playing in the Finals with a punctured lung and Gregory Campbell’s penalty kill on a broken fibula.
Toughness can’t always cut it, though. Even Bruins legend Bobby Orr had his trophy-laden career cut short by a pair of surgically repaired knees. However, one common injury bucks the NHL’s gritty culture like no other: the concussion.
The concussion, unlike most injuries, can rapidly become something sinister and even life-altering. While we love to see our sports heroes fight through adversity, it’s imperative for fans to accept that players cannot always do that. They have personal lives off the ice that they plan to continue long after retirement and should not be jeopardized.
Bruins’ fans have already seen the careers of the once-promising Ondrej Kase and two-time all-star Marc Savard come to a screeching halt due to the head injury. Yet, Bergeron also struggled through repeat concussions early in his career, and now that feels almost like a distant memory. Now it seems that Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo is approaching a similar crossroads in his career.
Carlo, a cornerstone of the current Bruins defensive core, is currently playing in the second year of his six-year extension. Unfortunately, the former second-rounders career has been bumpier than hoped initially – he recently suffered the fifth concussion of his career this past October. Many expected his series of concussions were a thing of the past. Nonetheless, there are reasons to be optimistic about his future. This recent head injury is only his first in over a year. While his overall concussion risk will remain high for years, his truly concerning string of three concussions were all between March 2020 to June 2021.
Furthermore, over the past year, his routine physical style of play continues. Between his rapid series of concussions, he played just 27 of the 54 regular season games, and he racked up 38 hits, about 1.4 per game. Since then, he’s played 115 of the 122 regular season games with 214 hits, about 1.8 per game. Although the COVID-19 league shutdown may play a role in this difference, his comfort in playing physically is still evident, despite his history of injury. Moreover, his single concussion in this last season and a half may show that he’s playing hard in the trenches without putting himself in dangerous situations where he could get hurt.
Concussions are temperamental and must be handled with caution. Carlo is now entering the prime of his career, but given his history with the injury, a current projection of his future would be wildly unreliable. Perhaps he will follow in the footsteps of his teammate Bergeron and continue to bounce back, generating a long career donning the spoked B. His fortunes of late are making that possibility more of a reality. But for now, we can only cross our fingers.