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March 1, 2006 - Health is Primeau's concern

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Health is Primeau's concern

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

By CHUCK GORMLEY
Courier-Post Staff

VOORHEES

Flyers captain Keith Primeau said he was hoping Tuesday's announcement that he will not play the remainder of the Flyers' regular season would bring "finality" to his attempt to recover from post-concussion syndrome.

But when asked if there is even the slightest chance he will return to play for the Flyers in the playoffs, Primeau, 34, left that window of opportunity open, albeit just a crack.

"A lot of things would have to happen in my favor for that to occur," Primeau said after thanking eight doctors, two massage therapists, two physical therapists and the Flyers' head trainer for their roles in his continued recovery.

"I'd have to be symptom free for a minimum of four weeks," he said. "Conditioning becomes a whole new set of factors. And then there's a place for me to fit in. There are a lot of unknowns and hypotheticals. I made this decision in hopes of getting better and I'm going to live with that decision for a while."

In all likelihood, Primeau will follow the advice of his doctors, who have recommended he not subject himself to body contact until training camp begins in September. Primeau said the blurred vision he was experiencing for several months cleared three weeks ago after it was recommended he increase his dosage of medication.

But he is still experiencing a spinning sensation whenever he has rapid head movements and there is concern that the next big hit he receives could have a lasting impact on his health.

"If I were to be hit again while still suffering these concussion symptoms, I could be in a whole lot of hurt," Primeau said. "That's one of the biggest reasons the doctors wouldn't give me clearance because they didn't feel comfortable I could avoid long-term problems."

Asked to elaborate on those long-term problems, Primeau said he was told he could suffer a stroke if he returns to the ice too soon.

"That's why they won't let me play," he said. "They won't accept that liability."

Primeau decided it was time he give up his daily fight to get back into the Flyers' lineup and think instead of waiting until September to resume a professional career that has lasted 16 years and produced 619 points in 909 games.

His teammates agree it was the right decision.

"Hockey is important, but you have your life," said defenseman Eric Desjardins, who missed eight games with a concussion earlier this season.

Primeau, who has two years and more than $6 million remaining on his contract with the Flyers, said he has not even entertained the thought of hanging up his skates for good.

"It still hasn't crossed my mind," he said. "I honestly believe the decision I made today is an attempt to prolong my career." Reach Chuck Gormley at cgormley@courierpostonline.com