Down and Out
BY TIM MCCARTHY // DEC. 5, 2011 //
“Get up, Shane. Get up!”
It’s what senior Shane Geib heard from a teammate after being hit from behind and into the boards during a hockey game last December against Nichols College. The hit left Geib with multiple bloody gashes on his forehead, requiring seven stitches, and the entire left side of his face swollen. But those injuries were the least of his worries.
Barely able to skate to the bench, Geib saw blurry lights and didn’t know where he was. As he received medical attention from the trainer, he was having trouble concentrating, felt really tired and began to fall asleep on the bench. Two days later, he went to Milton Hospital with symptoms of blurred vision, headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
“I would sneeze and see stars,” said Geib, a forward from Stony Plain, Canada. Another time, he was looking at an empty paper towel dispenser and was at a loss for words. “I couldn’t text my roommate what it was that we needed,” he added.
Waiting until he felt symptom free, Geib returned to the ice against New England College on Jan. 1, 2011. “I felt good when I first came back; I took a light hit and felt a little dizzy, but wanted to play so bad I kept playing.” After scoring a goal and earning an assist in his return, he continued to play symptom-free into late February. During a practice, Geib would again be hit from behind, this time by a teammate.
“I felt my neck and spine compress and immediately started having muscle spasms in my back,” he said.
All of his original concussion symptoms returned, and Geib was carried off the ice in a stretcher. “I was scared that I broke my back,” he said.
With Geib’s whole neck swollen along his spine, he would spend three days in a brace in the hospital. The doctors told him that he returned to hockey too soon after the initial concussion.
A study by the Mayo Clinic in late 2010 found that NCAA hockey players suffered more concussions than all other collegiate sports athletes. In fact, 9 percent of all injuries in men’s college hockey are concussions, compared to 7 percent in football. A different study, in the journal Neurosurgical Focus, found in 2010 that incidents of head traumas in junior hockey were widely underreported and often untreated.
Geib’s struggles over the past year aren’t all that dissimilar from the NHL’s premier player, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Crosby missed 10 ½ months of hockey after suffering concussions in back-to-back games last season. He recently returned to the ice, on Nov. 21.
In addition to his injuries following his second concussion, Geib said he battled bouts of anxiety, sickness and acute memory loss. “I was on an emotional roller coaster; nothing was going good for me,” he said.
Returning to Curry this fall, Geib said he felt totally healed and ready to play. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that it would happen again,” he said. But as is the case with concussion sufferers, it did.
Geib took a light hit during a practice and immediately saw stars again. On the bench, he felt nauseas and fatigued, and he would see shadows that weren’t there on blank walls.
Geib has yet to play this season for the Curry hockey team, which got off to a 6-1 start, because his concussion symptoms continue to linger. Nationally ranked at 15th in the Division III Preseason Poll, the team had won six games in a row as of press time, and scored 40 goals over its five games. The Colonels were 3-0 in ECAC Northeast conference play.
Geib said he would like to play hockey in Europe after graduation, but acknowledges that his athletic dreams are on thin ice. “I am worried about my hockey career, but my health is my No. 1 priority,” he said. “If I have one more [concussion], I might be done.”