Hockey and the Mythology of Tough

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After Rich Peverley suffered a cardiac event Monday night in Dallas, there was a meme that started going around about Lebron James suffering from cramps and being carried off the court and Peverley wanting to return to the game.

Back when I was in high school I was taught phys. ed. by one of the members of the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame, Norm Froemel. The principal of my high school was Bob Town, another member of the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame. I have never played basketball, but once I got to my high school I entered a culture of basketball players and learned something I will never forget: basketball is a very tough sport. I had friends who played who told me stories about being elbowed while competing for loose balls and getting black eyes from overaggressive opponents (okay, all those stories are from one person).

In turn, I played water polo and swam. I use the past tense because chronically bad legs made me stop playing, but not before I witnessed some crazy thing happen and players just keep playing. There was the time when I was 11 and I stopped a shot from not even a metre in front of me with the top of my head. The ball was shot hard enough that the referee stopped the game to ask me if I was okay. I have seen people be held under water for more than 10 seconds and continue playing. Players have played with chronic shoulder injuries that force them into physiotherapy and yet they still play in every game. Athletes are tough.

Back to hockey and the basketball complex that is being demonstrated by the meme. Cramps in your legs suck and can hurt a lot. Not as much as cramps in your feet, but they can still be very painful. James is a very big man who needed help off the court, which is normal for someone suffering from bad cramps. It may have been as simple as the easiest way to get him off the court was to carry him off. James is a tough player, he is currently planning on playing without a protective face mask to protect his broken nose because it is not comfortable for him to play in.

Athletes are insane and they are programmed to play no matter what. It is what makes them great, but also what can cause great worry because it means that they still hide concussions, no matter what the research tells them.

I am not saying this because I think hockey players are not tough, they are incredibly tough. All athletes are; they have to be because sports are not nice. They are tests of the human body. Who is insane enough to break their nose and keep playing? Athletes. Who would be insane enough to ski down a hill with a torn ACL? Athletes. And maybe the most common one, who runs a marathon, a total of 26.2 miles or 42 kilometres? Athletes. Average, everyday people who become athletes and punish their bodies so they can say that they accomplished a goal. As a non runner (and someone completely incapable of running), I admire people who are crazy enough to even attempt this and I respect them a lot for it.

There are many instances of hockey players being tough and coming back from bad injuries in game. Steven Stamkos returned to a game after taking a slap shot to the face, Patrice Bergeron last year in the playoff, Martin Havlat for his entire career. These guys are insane, but so is Lebron James and Steve Nash for trying come back from a broken leg that also caused nerve damage.

There is something to be said about hockey players and other athletes. They are insane and they are programmed to play no matter what. It is what makes them great, but also what can cause great worry because it means that they still hide concussions, no matter what the research tells them. All athletes want to compete, it is time that we took a step back and realized that it should not be seen as a badge of honour that Peverley wanted to return, it should be seen as the burden of being an athlete, programmed to compete at all times.

Note: I have not taken First Aid in three year and was curious if Peverley's request to return to play had anything with him being in Shock, which is a normal response of the body after experiencing trauma. After checking the Mayo Clinic website, I do not think it is but it could be. There may be another reason than the "hockey players are tough" story that gets spun after every bad injury suffered.

Finally, do yourself a favour, read this story on what happened to Peverley from Dr. Jo Innes, and if you have not taken a CPR/First Aid course in the past three years, sign up for one as a refresher because you never know when you might need it.

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