VOORHEES, N.J. -- Lauren Pronger once said that post-concussion syndrome changed her husband, and “not in a good way.”
Chris said it threw him into depression with her and his three children.
“You get agitated very quickly,” he recalled. “When the symptoms start piling up, start getting a headache and loud in the house, there’s bright lights, kids running around screaming, all that stuff, you are on edge as it is.
“You’re pissed off that you are not playing the game you love, that you can’t go do what you want to do every day. Then you are even more pissed off because you got a headache and it’s getting worse and worse and your eyes and you’re light-headed and dizzy and your kid comes over and you snap.
“You’re not being the father you want to be. It changes your personality a little bit. I’ve gotten a little better with it. But I still get a 'grrr' on from time to time and I gotta catch myself, take myself out of the room and make sure I’m a little better.
“It can be debilitating. I guess the biggest part is the depression. How you feel about yourself. How you feel about the injury and how dark you go down.”
Pronger met with the media for 40 minutes on Thursday at Skate Zone where he reiterated he won’t retire. He sat down fielded questions for 28 minutes before meeting with reporters for another 12, and said he still hopes to someday play again. He was accompanied by his agent, Pat Morris.
Though he says he wants to play again, Pronger admits to having severely diminished vision and can’t even run without feeling ill.
He has been under the care of noted neurologist Micky Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for the past 15 months.
Collins, in a release, said Pronger has suffered “severe injury across multiple systems,” particularly, the vestibular system which integrates balance, vision and spatial recognition.
“I’m just trying to get healthy and live a normal life and get better for myself and my family,” the Flyers defenseman said. “The rest will take care of itself.”
Pronger took a stick to the right eye from Mikael Grabovski of Toronto on Oct. 24, 2011 and then incurred light and noise sensitivity on Nov. 19 at Winnipeg. In between, he took a couple hits in games that left him concussed, though no one knows for sure where and when.
He has not played since the game in Winnipeg and is not expected to ever play again. However, because of salary cap rules, Pronger can’t announce his retirement without the Flyers incurring a $4.9 million cap hit. His contract ends after the 2016-17 season.
At present, he is on the long-term injured reserve, which allows the Flyers to use his cap money to help themselves in signing other players.
When asked about the ridiculousness of not allowing a player such as himself who is clearly injured and should retire without salary cap consequences, Pronger laughed and said it was a better question for the NHL.
Pronger explained his eye and head injuries are all part of post-concussion syndrome.
“The concussion was to my vestibular system and obviously my ocular system took a drastic blow when I got hit in the eye,” he said. “They're kind of correlated together.
“The eye is kind of intertwined with the concussion to create all the dizziness and lightheadedness as I move my head and make different motions. It just poses a problem. You get disoriented. I guess that's the easiest way to say it.”
He no longer has peripheral vision and he regularly needs to replace his eye glasses for stronger magnification. He also lost his “sixth sense” of people around him which would make it dangerous on the ice.
“At times I can be disoriented,” he said. “I can lose my train of thought. My cognitive skills are a little suspect at times. It comes and goes on certain days.
“I can be sitting here and you might say what’s wrong with him and I’ll figure out what I was saying and start going again.”
Pronger admitted to having diminished energy and can easily fall asleep. He has to avoid strenuous activity.
“Anything where I have to move my body fast,” he said. “If I ride a bike where my heart rate gets up to high, I get symptoms. Pretty much anything where there’s a lot going on [I can't do].”
Collins has already told him never to play again. So what gives Pronger the hope that he might?
“It will be difficult, but the good things in life are never easy,” he replied. “You have to set goals and try to push yourself to attain them and reach them. This is no different. I have to keep working at it.”
Lauren Pronger said over a year ago, all she wants is him safe at home with his family and his safety can never be assured again on the ice.
“Obviously hockey has been a big part of my life for the last 19 or 20 years, and who knows where it goes from here, but you want to make sure you’re around for them, too,” Pronger said.
He has found some hobbies: fishing and golfing. He sees an eye specialist twice a week. Though he reads, his eyes get tired.
As for his level of depression right now, it’s “nowhere near where I was at.”
And if he never plays again?
“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “I don’t say I wish I could have done this or that. I can say I left the game with nothing to prove.’’er to lead a normal life.