The cult of personality: Sidney Crosby's concussion problems linger on

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle in the third period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 8-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

As someone on Twitter said earlier about Sidney Crosby and his (lack of) personality - be careful what you wish for.

People had complained for a long time that his media personality was the equivalent of dry toast. Bland, dry, and a little stale. He said all the right things, did all the right things, and was perfect in his role of NHL poster boy.

And then came the concussions.

Would it surprise anyone that severe concussions can actually change a person's personality? Make them more volatile and have less impulse control? Seriously.

The Mayo Clinic says this about concussion-induced personality changes:

Headaches that occur after a concussion can vary and may feel like tension-type headaches or migraine headaches. Most, however, are tension-type headaches, which may be associated with a neck injury that happened at the same time as the head injury. In some cases, people experience behavior or emotional changes after a mild traumatic brain injury. Family members may notice that the person has become more irritable, suspicious, argumentative or stubborn.

The Behavioural Neurotherapy Clinic lists some of these as symptoms:

  • Impulsivity, irritability
  • Low frustration threshold
  • Temper outbursts and changes in mood
  • Self-centeredness and lack of insight
  • Personality changes

And an article online from the Vancouver Sun last month had this to say:

Despite new awareness about concussions and the anxiety, depression or profound personality changes that can result, less talked about is the effect on a person's psyche.

Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Shree Bhalerao specializes in traumatic brain injury. He sees numerous patients experiencing serious emotional problems months, and sometimes years, after a head trauma.

Are any of these things reminding you of how Crosby played in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers? Because they should. This was him all over the place.

The fact of the matter is that Crosby, a year and a half ago, was so controlled and so deliberate in everything that he did, he almost seemed robotic. And now, he seems to lack impulse control and has anger management issues. People are using his actions in Game 3 (as well as in other games previous to that) to justify their hatred of him. They're using his post-concussion issues as validation to prove that he really is a jerk. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn't before, but that's not the point.

This is exactly why the NHL - and all other sports leagues - need to have a comprehensive concussion treatment plan. It's bad enough that players are getting concussed, and often due to shoddy on-ice officiating combined with a lack of respect among players. But these things have long-term, life-changing consequences.

It's not just suicides, substance abuse, and headaches that people have to watch out for. It turning into a completely different person. This isn't just a temporary change - it can last for years and perhaps forever. And perhaps that's what leads those with chronic concussions to substance abuse and suicide. Struggling with being who you are is hard enough; but add to that knowing you've changed, and not for the better? It gets messy fast.

How would you like to be the one to ultimately destroy someone's life with a high elbow or a shoulder to the face? Or, on the flip side, how would you like your life destroyed because someone did that to you? This is exactly the problem with head shots in the NHL. Players do these things to others without any thought of someone else doing the same back to them. And this could - and has - happen to anyone.

Which isn't to say that Crosby isn't responsible for his own actions. He is completely responsible for his own actions. He just has issues that he needs to deal with.

Those that wanted Crosby to act human have finally gotten their wish, but not in exactly the way they might've hoped. This is what happens when a human being has a severe concussion, and his recovery is only just beginning. This is the end game to all of that. It was obvious that he'd be different when he came back, but I don't think anyone predicted this.

The saddest part of all of this is that it's taken someone of Sidney Crosby's stature for this discussion to be happening at all. So many careers, and lives, have ended just because someone "got their bell rung". When, in fact, it's a life-changing event - and not in a good way.

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