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Ales Hemsky knocked out of game with concussion, did Oilers staff make a big mistake?

Jan 19, 2011, 3:07 AM EDT

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Jamie Langenbrunner, Ales Hemsky

Injuries seem to be piling up everywhere and even lowly Edmonton isn’t immune. After defenseman Ryan Whitney’s season was essentially put to an end thanks to ankle surgery, tonight Ales Hemsky joined him on the list of skating wounded. During tonight’s game with the Wild, Hemsky left the game early with a concussion.

If Hemsky’s injury keeps him out for an extended period of time, he’d likely miss the All-Star Game next week in Raleigh. If you’re looking for potential replacements for him, the list is plentiful. Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere and Minnesota’s Martin Havlat are near the top of the list to get a call from the NHL and get dropped into the selection pool for the game.

While that’s all good and frivolous talk though, we’re discovering that Hemsky’s injury situation is worth taking a very close look at.

As we’ve talked about for the better part of a year now, the science that goes into discovering, diagnosing, and treating concussions is still inexact. The question, as we’ve discovered in how things are going in Sidney Crosby‘s dealings with a concussion, is when did things first happen for Hemsky.

As we’re finding out, Hemsky may have originally had the blow that sent him reeling some time ago. Jim Matheson from the Edmonton Journal finds out that Hemsky may have been playing for a while with a concussion.

It doesn’t appear to be any particular hit that KO’d him, more an accumulation of blows over the last half-dozen games.

“He took a puck in the head in Vancouver, an elbow to the head and a stick to the cheek in games on the road trip we just finished and he was a little out of sorts tonight, so we pulled him,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.

“He’s had some symptoms before this game and the doctor looked at him and I don’t know what conclusion they’ve drawn.”

As we’ve seen in the discussions about Crosby and his concussion and how much heat the Penguins coaches and training staff have taken over even the possibility they allowed Crosby to play with a concussion against Tampa Bay, it’s baffling to think that the Oilers would seemingly ignore Hemsky’s health in favor of making sure he gets back out on the ice for what’s a bad hockey team.

The Oilers are more than aware of the injury problems Hemsky has faced through his career and the fact that they seemingly looked the other way on what amounts to a brain injury is incredible. After all, coach Renney even says that the doctors looked at him and he has no idea what they thought of Hemsky’s condition. Did he not know or did he just ignore what they said and kept putting him out there anyhow? After all, this is over the course of about six or so games.

It’s unreal to think that the Oilers or any medical staff would play this loose with something like a concussion to a player with a bad injury history, but then again we’re only more privy to these things in the modern age. With modern coverage we’ve seen modern medicine improve a bit, but still the only way to properly treat a concussion as far as we know now is with rest and no physical exertion at all.

Instead, Hemsky has played in at least six games. The fact that tonight was the first night where his body finally had enough and forced him out is remarkable in itself and the Oilers physicians have to be thankful that Hemsky didn’t take a violent hit in the meantime that could’ve turned this into a disaster. The Oilers coaches and medical staff are going to have some explaining to do over this as concussions once again move to the forefront of discussion.

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