It’s time to step back from last night’s thrilling victory and take a minute to applaud the Golden Knights medical staff and the NHL.
In the first period of Game 3, James Neal took an elbow to the head from the guy they call Big Buff.
Byfuglien catches James Neal up high with an elbow. pic.twitter.com/tBJryQIAeU
— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 17, 2018
I think Dustin Byfuglien just hit me with his elbow right. It just got me in the eye and mouth, and then you have to go off for protocol. -James Neal
After the collision, Neal took time returning to his skates and eventually to the bench. This began the initial protocol.
Here are excerpts from the NHL’s concussion evaluation and protocol guide:
If any of the following symptoms or signs occurs after a direct blow to the head (including contact with the glass, boards and ice) or an indirect blow to the head (such as a blow to the body that causes acceleration/deceleration of the head), the Club shall remove the Player from the playing environment for an acute evaluation:
1. “Symptoms”: The Player reports or exhibits one or more “Symptoms” of possible concussion, including:
Headache, Pressure in head, Neck Pain, Nausea/vomiting, Dizziness, Blurred Vision. Balance Problems
2. Sign: “Lying Motionless on the Ice”: A Player lies motionless on the ice or falls to the ice in an unprotected manner (i.e., without stretching out his hands or arms to lessen or minimize his fall).
3. Sign: “Motor Incoordination/Balance Problems”: A Player staggers, struggles to get up or skate properly, appears to lose his balance, trips or falls, or stumbles while getting up, trying to get up, or skating.
4. Sign: “Blank or Vacant Look”: A Player has a blank or vacant look.
5. Signs: “Slow to Get Up” or “Clutches his Head”: A Player is slow to get up or clutches his head (including any part of his face)
Golden Knights trainers immediately spoke with Neal on the bench, but he had his head down and was shaken up. It was concerning enough for team medical staff and league spotters.
A League Spotter shall promptly notify Club Medical Personnel each time a Player exhibits an observed visible sign following a direct or indirect blow to the head, regardless of whether such Player is attended to by Club Medical Personnel on the ice, at the bench, or in the locker room, and regardless of whether an evaluation is mandatory or discretionary. -NHL’s concussion evaluation and protocol guide
In the moment it appeared Neal wasn’t happy with being pulled off the bench. However, the NHL is simply protecting its players. Vegas physicians are trained to detect concussion symptoms, and have the knowledge to confidently clear a player back to action.
The Club Physician and/or Club Athletic Trainer/Therapist (when reasonably possible, together) shall examine the Player in a resting state, in a distraction-free environment using the X2 App and the King- Devick test. Additional evaluation methods can be used at the Club Physician’s discretion. In all circumstances, the Club Physician shall assess the Player in person and shall be solely responsible for determining whether or not the Player is diagnosed as having a concussion. -NHL’s concussion evaluation and protocol guide
Some questioned the medical staff’s handling of Marc-Andre Fleury’s early season concussion. Which is why it’s important to point out the textbook performance by the Vegas medical team allowing Neal to finish the game.
So, I can’t stay on the bench, I have to go off to do all my testing. Once that’s done, if I pass it I can come back and I’m good. I came back, it just takes some time. -Neal
Neal was his jovial self during his postgame press conference. He was smiling and laughing about Fleury’s Superman saves on Mark Scheifele.
I had a great view sitting on the bench there. His legs, his toe came out so fast, for one save. Back to him again, and he comes diving across again, diving. It was fun. -Neal
When Neal did return, he looked like the best skater on the ice for the Golden Knights. The Real Deal isn’t the only one in Western Concussion final mode.