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LaFontaine speaks about post-concussion syndrome

Monday, 02.07.2011 / 2:08 PM / News

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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LaFontaine speaks about post-concussion syndrome
Hockey Hall of Fame center Pat LaFontaine, whose career was cut short as a result of post-concussion syndrome, is certainly privy to the case surrounding Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard.
Hockey Hall of Fame center Pat LaFontaine, whose career was cut short as a result of post-concussion syndrome, is certainly privy to the case surrounding Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard.

There's confusion and a feeling there's still plenty left in the tank -- everything LaFontaine once felt as a player. But LaFontaine, who is now making an even greater impact off the ice through his Companions in Courage Foundation to help children and their families overcome life-threatening obstacles, has some sound advice.

"Once you get to a certain point with head injuries, there's no turning back," LaFontaine told NHL.com. "For some reason, we use up this reserve. We all start out with a full tank in reserve and every time we get hit, we deplete that resource. For some reason, when we're on empty, what used to take us a week or two weeks to bounce back, is now taking us months and sometimes years.

"There's no silver lining or crystal ball out there that says we can regenerate neurons yet, so my hope for Marc is that he gets the right advice, takes care of his head and makes sure that … the worse thing you can do is come back too early," LaFontaine continued. "You wouldn't only be jeopardizing your career, but you might also suffer long-term damage."

LaFontaine, who had 468 goals and 1,013 points despite missing parts of three seasons during a career that spanned 15 years with the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers, announced his retirement from hockey at the age of 34 on Oct. 12, 1999.

He was first diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome during the 1996-97 campaign after a high hit by Pittsburgh's Francois Leroux. Doctors advised LaFontaine not to return, but he did and was never really the same.

"I never heard from Francois, but you put that stuff behind you," LaFontaine said. "The irony here is that 13 years after my hit, we're seeing a lot of similar situations in the game. No one is to blame, but we're all responsible in putting a stop to it. Hockey is a great game, but we do need to make it safer and better for the players so that they can play a long career and then live a good life after hockey. We need to continue to grow the game and think about the well-being of our players. We're a fraternity."

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That was something I've been dreaming of, something I've told myself before the third period I was going to do ... It was an amazing feeling. It's hard to describe. I didn't believe it went in at first but when I saw all the reaction and all the fans going crazy and my teammates going crazy, it's just an unbelievable feeling. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know whether to jump or just skate and do a Theo Fleury. I don't think I'm the same caliber player he is so I couldn't do it.

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