Aaron Ekblad has been cleared to play and will be in the lineup tonight for the Florida Panthers tonight when they face the Carolina Hurricanes. The young 21 year old cornerstone defenseman has missed the past four games with a concussion. This was his 3rd concussion and 4th upper body injury since he turned 18. Should he play is the question. From what I’ve seen, Panthers twitter so far unanimously agrees (which has been rare this year) that the former first overall pick should head back to Windsor and prepare for next year. I agree. Here is why.
Ekblad is 21 years old. This is his 3rd concussion and his 4th upper body injury in the past few years. When he returned from that hit from behind by Hendricks he struggled for the remainder of the year. When he suffered whiplash at the World Cup of Hockey it took him almost the entire first half of the season to return to his normal skill. Historical data suggests that if Ekblad were to return tonight, he would be more of a liability than an asset. What the Panthers should do is send him home and let him recover. Last month was the first time he was legally allowed to have an alcoholic beverage in the United States. Eric Lindros was done at six concussion. Ekblad’s mentor Willie Mitchell was seven. Ekblad is at three (four if you count the whiplash he had). If the Panthers don’t shut him down he will likely become a liability economically for the team and on the ice. When I’ve seen Ekblad close up on the camera several times this year he looks a little dazed. The Panthers need to shut him down.
Secondly, the Panthers aren’t making the playoffs. In order to have a shot, they will need to go 10-0-1 down the stretch to have a hope at mid April hockey. They haven’t done that all year. 6 of their remaining 11 games are aganist playoff teams, teams they have struggled against all year long. The way they are playing shows they aren’t going to make it. The team needs scoring and Ekblad has played better on the defensive side of the game this year. Now if the Panthers had 77 points instead of 73 and Ekblad had one less concussion, I’d say go for it. But they don’t.
More importantly is Ekblad’s life. He is only 21 years old. I’m 13 years old. A lot of former hockey players have suffered from CTE and other head problems when they retire. This stuff can lead to depression, nausea, long term memory loss, constant headaches, dizziness, anxiety and all this other bad stuff. In some cases, people have taken their own lives. Life is short on earth and it’s precious. Don’t take any risks that will shorten it. There comes a point when you suffer numerous injuries and the risks are bigger. When I broke my foot, soccer season was about to start. I really wanted to get back. When I finally got my boot off, it was near the end of the season. I came back for the playoffs but my body wasn’t ready. I had side issues including severe groin pain from limping. My brain said “play” but my body said “no I’m not ready”. I listened to my brain and I could barely do anything to help my team in the field. Eventually, I had to do physical therapy which caused More pain but helped my foot fully recover. Now it’s spring season and I’m not at the same ability because I lost a lot of speed when I was hurt. If I had listened to my body, I would be faster now. Just think. If something had gone wrong on the soccer field. I don’t even want to know what could’ve happened. What if Ekblad goes out there tonight, takes a big hit and hits his head hard? Yeah, not going to be pretty. The problem with a concussion is that you don’t have a cast for it. If you break almost any other body part you normally get a cast. The bone heals naturally. But a concussion affects the brain. The brain isn’t a bone structure. It’s a complicated organ that is basically the command center of your body. If your heart stops working, your brain can keep you around long enough to get some CPR or whatever that paddle is called that electrically starts your heart. When the brain stops working, you die. The brain is basically a car moving nonstop. A concussion is basically a road with a lot of friction in the brain. You can’t wear a cast on the brain. Even when the brain is hurt it still has a job to do. It runs all of your bodily processes. Even the dumbest person in the world’s brain is smarter than the world’s smartest computer. Ekblad has his whole life ahead of him. No need to risk it.