It began with vertigo, then National Hockey League winger Bryan Bickell was diagnosed with an ocular issue. After about 19 months of not feeling right, Bickell was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 2016. Bickell said of his diagnosis in the Chicago Tribune:
“Since the 2015 playoffs, I’ve been struggling to understand what was going on with my body,” Bickell said in a statement his current team, the Hurricanes, released. “Again during the past few weeks, it felt like something wasn’t right.”
He also told the Tribune that he felt a shooting nerve in his shoulder and the initial diagnosis was that it might just be a pinched nerve. After the pain moved to his leg, Bickell wanted to get a further examination thinking it might be something more serious. Bickell has played in the NHL for 11 seasons, but missed significant time in all but three seasons.
The awareness of neurological issues among athletes has risen over the last five to ten years. Concussions are taken far more serious now and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) has proliferated among athletes.
A 2013 article on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) website has linked MS with CTE and concussions. The article was written by the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of the NCAA Brian Hainline. Hainline’s NCAA bio says “Brian Hainline, M.D., is the first chief medical officer of the NCAA and oversees the SSI. For more than 25 years, Brian has been actively involved in sports medicine.”
The repeated hits players take in contact sports can cause a lot of neurological damage. Hainline linked MS to them.
“There are many parallels between concussion and multiple sclerosis (MS). The medical and scientific community currently understands concussion in a manner similar to how multiple sclerosis was understood thirty years ago. In part, this is because concussion had not caught the attention of neuroscientists thirty years ago in the same manner as MS. Back then, there was an emerging unifying hypothesis about MS that implicated a neuro-inflammatory response that attacked the covering of the central nervous system axons. This hypothesis led to a global search for objective biomarkers of MS, to aid in both diagnosis and treatment.”
Bickell was a hero of the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2013 Stanley Cup title run. He scored one of the most important and dramatic goals in the history of the National Hockey League and the Chicago Blackhawks.
His goal with 1:16 remaining tied the game for the Blackhawks in game six of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Blackhawks would take the lead 17 seconds after Bickell’s goal to win their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
Because of his outstanding postseason that year, Bickell signed a four-year, $16 million contract after that season. He never lived up to the contact in part because of injuries. Bickell recently returned to the Ice for the first time in four months with the Charlotte Checkers, the minor league affiliate of the Hurricanes.
He told GoCheckers.Com about where he stands currently:
“I didn’t really know much about MS,” said Bickell. “I knew when the doctor brought me into his office and how his body language was that something was wrong. When he told me, I didn’t know much about it. And then over the weeks I learned a lot about it because of the circumstances.”
Bickell was able to consult with former Minnesota Wild Goaltender Josh Harding who had to retire in 2015 after parts of nine seasons because of complications from MS. Bickell talked about some of his discussions with Harding on GoCheckers:
“I’ve talked to Harding on the phone and through text just to see the experiences he went through,” said Bickell. “A big thing is overheating. He always talked about the things that he did between periods and during TV timeouts that helped him cool down”
The Hurricanes are currently 26-26-10 in the NHL’s Eastern Conference and hold the last playoff spot. Carolina has 18 games remaining in the regular season that concluded April 9.
Alan Rubenstein is a native Chicagoan that has been covering sports for numerous website and newspapers for almost 20 years. Some of the websites he has been featured on include the Fansided, the Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports. He currently writes the blog Chicago Sportist on Chicago and is the Expert and a Writer for Fansided’s Canes Warning. The picture is from the tribune (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)
Dr. Hainline’s complete article can be found here.
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