Monday, October 31, 2005By CHUCK GORMLEY
Keith Primeau was supposed to appear at Signal Hill Elementary School Monday dressed in a Chewbacca
costume. Instead, the Flyers' captain underwent cognitive tests at Jefferson University Hospital, where it was determined
he has suffered another concussion and is experiencing whiplash symptoms.
According to Primeau, this is the fifth documented concussion of his 15-year NHL career. But as recently
as two weeks ago, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound center told the Courier-Post he might have sustained 100 concussions since the time
he began playing as a 5-year-old.
The question of how many concussions Primeau can sustain before suffering long-term brain damage is something
the Flyers are examining carefully.
"That is why we are monitoring his symptoms daily," Flyers head trainer Jim McCrossin said. "I wish I
could answer that. That at six (concussions) we're gonna call it quits, and Keith, you have to call it quits. That is where
(Dr. Gary) Dorshimer and Dr. (Gerri) McGinnis and all the doctors who evaluate Keith have to come up with a decision. Keith's
health is our first priority. There is life after hockey."
Primeau, who will turn 34 later this month, has a wife and four children. He said his last documented
concussion, which occurred on Feb. 12, 2004, in a collision with former Rangers center Bobby Holik, resulted in post-concussion
symptoms that lasted for 16 months.
He said those prolonged symptoms made him second-guess his decision to return for the 2004 playoffs, when
he led the Flyers in scoring with nine goals and 16 points in 18 playoff games.
"I wonder now how smart that was because the last one (in 2004) felt cumulative," Primeau said. "It felt
like all the times I've been bumped since I was a kid. That's not a good feeling."
Primeau's latest troubles began one week ago when he was elbowed in the head by Montreal Canadiens rookie
"It was a whiplash situation because he hit his head on the ice really hard," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock
said. "I don't care if you've never had a concussion before. That's an awful blow to the head to take."
Primeau played two more games after the hit, but when he complained of headaches and neck tension before
the Flyers' game against the Ottawa Senators Sunday night, the Flyers kept him out of the lineup.
On Monday, Primeau was examined by Dorshimer and McGinnis, the team's neurologist. According to NHL Players'
Association guidelines, Primeau must now wait a minimum of seven days before undergoing further neuro-psychological testing.
McCrossin said Dorshimer and McGinnis did not put a grade on Primeau's latest concussion, but are treating
it as cumulative head trauma. He said the club is also working to relieve tension in Primeau's upper cervical area with massage
"It's causing an irritation and can slow down your circulation," McCrossin said. "Second, the muscles
in the neck go up into the head. If they are tight, they are pulling down on the head and causing a headache."
In addition to headaches and neck tension, Primeau also experiences a "spinning" sensation when he lies
down and said his eyes feel "busy" and "fatigued," McCrossin said.
McCrossin, who said he's had more conversations with Primeau than the Flyers' captain has had with his
wife, said Primeau will be restricted to taking walks for at least two days and there is no date for when he can resume physical
The Flyers must report Primeau's information to the NHL, which is collecting data on every player who
suffers a concussion. Former Flyers center Eric Lindros, who sat out the entire 2000-01 season with concussion symptoms, has
been instrumental in the study.
"I never understood what Eric was going through, but now I do," Primeau said. "The last couple (concussions)
were not head-to-head contact, but the force of the hits could easily make your brain start to flow."
Lindros eventually returned to play and after sitting out during last year's lockout he is enjoying a
strong start with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. McCrossin said there is no way of telling how much damage Primeau has
suffered from his previous concussions and how much damage his next one would entail.
"That is all individual," McCrossin said. "It's not clear-cut. Injuries vary person to person and blow
to blow. We know where (Primeau) tested on his neuro-psyche exam. But in terms of damage done, I don't know if anyone can
tell you that."
In other injury news, defenseman Kim Johnsson is day-to-day with a groin strain. The club was given the
day off Monday and will practice today and Wednesday in preparation for Thursday's game against the Washington Capitals, the
Flyers' first of five straight home games.