Capitals’ defenseman Mike Green practiced Saturday, his first on-ice action since a hit from Columbus’s Boone Jenner Tuesday knocked him out of the game and into evaluation for concussion.
“I think” he’ll play, Capitals Coach Adam Oates said after watching Green participate in practice. “They’re just going through the precautions that you have to do. He said he feels a lot better than he did, and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
The NHL’s concussion protocol, as outlined in the league’s collective bargaining agreement, requires that a player be “removed from play at the minimum until the player is symptom free at rest and after strenuous activity.” There is no standard evaluation for concussions in the protocol, but Green said he saw a doctor after the hit and that the team has been monitoring his symptoms since.
“I feel a lot better today as opposed to the last two days,” Green said. “I’m taking it day to day … it’s one of those things you get your bell rung and obviously have been down this path before so I know a bit of the symptoms and am making sure we’re doing the right thing here.”
The last time Green traveled the unpredictable path back from a concussion was in 2011, when he missed 20 games with a head injury.
“I felt better than I thought I would” today, Green said. “The weird thing with head injuries — one day you wake up and you feel a lot better the next. We’ll talk here today [about playing Sunday]. Obviously want to make sure now that I’ve exercised there are no symptoms, and we’ll make a decision dependent upon that.”
Green also spoke to the importance of the league’s concussion protocol, which while still unspecific in terms of the nature of immediate post-hit evaluation, does draw the line on players returning to games with potential head injuries.
“If you’ve ever had a concussion, you know what it feels like. You put yourself at risk going back out there if you don’t have the reaction time you need,” Green said. “Another bump to the head wouldn’t be good. So the protocol and what they’ve implemented has really helped. I think the players understand what to look for and how to react, so I’d rather miss a couple games than have a season.”
Oates, who played in a time where concussions were played through not a cause for panic, said he’s seen the protocol make a significant difference in today’s game.
“I think [the protocol] is a great step, but you’re also talking to a guy who had a different experience with that stuff, so it’s hard for some of us,” Oates said of the elevated concern around hits to the head. “But it’s well documented with the NFL and all that. And it’s a slippery slope. But I can also say I played a long time and never saw some of the reactions guys get these days.”
“Is that because kids are getting hit harder? I’m sure that’s all stuff they’re weighing,” Oates added. “I know my nephew plays, they learn to wear full cages at a young age. We didn’t. So maybe we learned to avoid contact. Maybe they’re taking contact at a really early age that they shouldn’t. It’s all knowing the situation right there, so we’re just trying to protect it as well as we can.”