Josh Thorimbert crashed onto the ice, taking the brunt of another bone-bruising collision. This time, he knew something wasn’t right, his mind disintegrating into a foggy mess.
It was the second period of a Feb. 4 showdown between Colorado College and Denver at World Arena, with the Gold Pan on the line. The Tigers were in a 2-2 tie, and they stood to lose their starting goaltender as CC trainer Jason Bushie examined a dazed Thorimbert.
“I’m fine. I’m good,” Thorimbert told Bushie. “It’s going away. I’m feeling better.”
Bushie knew better than to let Thorimbert remain between the pipes, and Thorimbert was diagnosed with a concussion. He almost always makes the right call, worried more about the safety of CC’s players than about the outcome of games, even with the No. 15 Tigers running short on healthy bodies for a pivotal home series against Nebraska-Omaha.
Thorimbert returns this weekend (Tigers coach Scott Owens is expected to start him over the struggling Joe Howe) after missing a pair of losses at Bemidji State for lots of sleep and light workouts that were prescribed by Bushie. Captain Nick Dineen also comes back from a concussion he suffered a period earlier than Thorimbert, and assuming that Scott Winkler and Eamonn McDermott return, CC would be down to five players on the shelf.
It marked the second confirmed concussion for Thorimbert, however, he admits that there have been “a lot more” that were undetected before he came to CC. In following Bushie’s protocol, Thorimbert had a serious brain injury ruled out, and after he rested for a couple of days, he rode a stationary bike. He was allowed to practice since he was declared free of concussion symptoms, such as headaches, sensitivity to light, nausea and amnesia.
If any of the symptoms surface, Thorimbert will be removed from action, and he’ll have to start the recovery process again. Ditto for Dineen, and the same goes for Mike Boivin, who won’t dress against Nebraska-Omaha as a result of a Feb. 10 concussion in Bemidji. A week is the usual recovery time, but Bushie admitted there’s “flexibility in protocols,” and the NCAA doesn’t have a standard. “It’s different to every individual,” Bushie said.
From the bench, Bushie watches for hits in which Tigers sustain “significant impacts.” If a player is drilled, Bushie initially checks his coordination, and if he illustrates signs of a concussion, he’s “past the point of no return,” Bushie said, noting that secondary hits are often most harmful. Owens gives Bushie the green light to decide a player’s status for the weekend, and Owens supports caution with concussions. “I think you have to,” he said.
Still, depending on the importance of the game, like this weekend as CC (15-11-2, 12-9-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) tries to improve its fourth-place standing in the WCHA and 20th-place ranking in the PairWise, variance exists in “how much the athlete wants to report,” said Bushie, in his fifth year with the Tigers. That’s why he ensures “it has to go through the appropriate protocol. We have one brain, and it needs to function.”
Dineen said he didn’t feel “back to normal” until the middle of last week, about the same time Thorimbert felt up to speed. Thorimbert called concussions “something you have to take very seriously, even though it seems like such a small, minor injury.” And he praised Bushie for preventing further damage. “In the long run,” he said, “it was the best advice.”
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