Former Tommie fighting concussion ignorance

Former Tommy hockey captain wants athletes to think of their brains before pain.

Matt Eagles suffered his first major concussion against Acadia. The former STU men’s hockey player was “basically unconscious.” He had trouble processing anything after the game. This was the first of three concussions in a span of 10 months that led this former team captain to hang up his skates.

“When I grew up playing there was not a whole lot of emphasis placed on those things,” said Eagles, who is studying at Memorial University’s faculty of medicine. “You get hit and you’re not feeling good, you wait a couple of days until you start feeling better, and you’re basically good to go.”

Eagles, a former Tommie captain and son of athletic director Mike Eagles, has teamed up with classmates to start Concussion U, an organization that lets athletes tell their concussion stories and reaches out to other athletes about the dangers of playing with head injuries. While information is out there on concussions, Eagles thinks hearing about the dangers from other athletes can make them recognize the symptoms early on.

Eagles was 10 years old when he believes he had his first concussion, but had no idea what it was or just how severe head injuries could be.

“You don’t really know what constitutes a concussion – at least I didn’t when I was a kid,” said Eagles. “Then the next day I’d say I probably didn’t have one, but matter of fact I probably did.”

The most common symptoms include nausea, headaches and decreased reaction times. Eagles says a concussion slows down the brain’s ability to metabolize. Eagles’s hope is that young athletes will let someone know when they’re not feeling well, and not try to play through injury.

“That mentality is endemic in contact sports. You hear about guys like Bobby Baun, for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who played in the Stanley Cup finals with a broken leg,” said Eagles.

Most young athletes have and probably still look up to athletes who play through injury, but brain injuries are different. Eagles said Patrice Bergeron missed 60 games because of a concussion, but was willing to play in the Stanley Cup finals with a collapsed lung. Those “iron man” athletes are still looked up to.

“As a young player you kind of aspire to that. You want to be the guy that’s tough enough to play through injuries. But concussions are different.”

Eagles is hoping that with Bergeron’s and Sydney Crosby’s stories of concussions more young athletes will think first before putting themselves at risk.

“These injuries aren’t like torn-up shoulders or banged-up knees. These are different. They can affect not just your physical ability to do something, but they affect every aspect of your life,” said Eagles “If you have a bad knee then that’s a sin, but you can’t do anything without your brain.”

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