BOSTON (CBS) - Former National Hockey League player Dan LaCouture called into 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich show Thursday morning to discuss his concussion history and why he's suing the NHL for it.
At 37 years old, LaCouture played in 337 games for the NHL with six different teams. This past year, LaCouture joined a concussion lawsuit brought against the NHL by its former players, after experiencing debilitating symptoms related to his head trauma.
"I suffered a lot of concussions while playing in the NHL. My first came in Edmonton back in 1998, then I had several when I played with Pittsburgh. My worst probably by far was in 2004 when I was playing with the Rangers. It happened during a fight when I ended up going down on the ice and my head got driven into the ice and the back of my skull opened. From there everything kind of changed for me personally in my life," LaCouture said.
"I threw my hat into the ring here with the lawsuit because the way I was taken care of back in New York and my symptoms going forward, not knowing quite how head injuries at that time could affect you long term."
While in the NHL, LaCouture felt the pressure to continue playing through his concussions and not let the team know it was affecting him.
"With the one I had in New York, everyone knew I had a serious concussion. Obviously the pressure is there to come back and play especially for guys on third or fourth lines knowing that you could be easily changed out. You try to come back as quickly as you can and try to protect your job," LaCouture added.
Just like the National Football League and its former players, LaCouture believes the NHL may be holding back information from its players about concussions.
"From what I know and learned in the past few years, they've known for a decade or two as far as what the long term effects could be for concussions. Coming into 1997, it was made to seem to us as players from coaches and management that a head injury was like a shoulder or knee injury at the time. Obviously that is not the case today," said LaCouture.
"There is so much more information out there and everybody is more aware of what can happen from concussions. Just look at the guys who've lost their lives over the past years. These aren't guys who happen to take their own lives or take pills or anything just because they were feeling fine. They obviously had problems with concussions and the effects afterwards."
The counter to this argument, of course, is that players understand the inherent risk of participating in a violent sport like hockey or football. LaCouture understands that particular angle. However, he believes that hockey goes beyond its limits of just checking and fighting.
"I can certainly appreciate someone saying that when you sign up that hockey is violent. I'm not saying it's not. As a kid growing up, especially as you get older, you know that when you hit this level, now there is checking. Certainly when you get to the NHL, the speed and strength of players, it's a contact sport and always should be," LaCouture told Toucher & Rich.
"Not at any point did myself or any other guys know during that period concussions could lead to dementia, Parkinson's, or CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) down the road. I've been hit and I've given hits, especially when they're clean hits. I've gotten right back up and have had no symptoms of concussions. It's guys like Matt Cooke who go around and hit defenseless players with an elbow when they're not looking to their head. That's where the problem lies."
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