Perhaps the most revealing nugget of information that came out of the final days of the Flyers' season last week was goalie Steve Mason admitting he had concussion symptoms the morning of Game 3 even though he backed up Ray Emery on the bench that same night.
And he ended up playing seven minutes in Game 3, too.
“I was never slated to play Game 3 and I still could’ve gotten better,” said Mason, who suffered headaches and nausea during his 18-day ordeal after being injured on April 12 in Pittsburgh.
“I was at the point where I didn’t have headaches. Concussions are a weird thing, you have headaches some days, some days you don’t, so when I was backing up, I felt fine after morning skate so I had no problem backing up.”
Mason awoke the morning of Game 4 with a persistent headache yet played that night after having “some work done,” which turned out to be acupuncture in his neck.
“Concussions are a different situation for every individual so it was a pretty unique situation,” Mason said.
Bottom line, Mason never should have played in Game 3 or 4. The proper protocol is you should be symptom free for at least one day and able to go through at least one hard practice without symptoms over the next 24 hours.
The decision on whether to dress always involves the player’s consent and in the end, Mason opted to play. Which is what too many athletes do.
Clearly, Mason wanted to play when he should not have played.
“I wasn’t feeling great for a good solid week where I’d wake up in the morning with a headache and I’d go to bed with one,” Mason said. “You just sit on the couch and all you do is watch TV and even that kind of bothers you. Then if you’re sitting on the couch, you’re getting stir crazy and depressed because you’re not playing hockey.
“Especially come playoff time, you’re missing the first game, then you miss the second game and you miss the third game and that’s what really starts to piss you off. Finally the symptoms subsided and I was able to get in there.”
Mason said he told coach Craig Berube and GM Paul Holmgren about his symptoms the day before Game 4.
“Oh yeah, they had to hold me back,” Mason said. “I told them that I could keep playing like I could play with this, and they were like no, you have to sit out blah, blah, blah.
“So they did everything that they could to prolong me from coming back to make sure that when I was back, I was 100 percent healthy. When I made my first start, there were no problems.”
The morning of Game 4, he had acupuncture.
“I had acupuncture done on my neck and then my head, which was a different experience," Mason said. "Just a lot of massages … but the main thing was acupuncture in my neck. That helped release some tense muscles.”
Holmgren said that Mason passed his baseline tests in days following his freak injury in Pittsburgh. At that point, it seemed like he had whiplash issues.
In the days that followed, it turned out to be a concussion with recurring symptoms when the Flyers practiced at Chelsea Piers in New York at the start of the series.
“He passed all his tests, and then we kept him out because it was more of a neck issue that he was dealing with,” Holmgren said. “We felt he was fully cleared to play and fine to play. I believe he played quite well.
“We’ll continue to monitor it next year … when all our players come to training camp, they do their baseline test again at the start of a new year. As a league, we continue to look for ways to make it safer for our players in all aspects.”