Carotid Laceration

Richard Zednik is a professional hockey player for the Florida Panthers. On February 10th, while competing against the Buffalo Sabres, he collided with a teammate whose skate accidentally cut Zednik’s right carotid artery.

All who have seen the video of this incident have been both horrified by the event and impressed by the medical response to this life-threatening injury. The fact that Zednik was discharged from Buffalo General Hospital in less than a week with no apparent permanent injury is amazing.

The carotid arteries are the two main arteries responsible for blood flow to their respective halves of the brain. Any prolonged deprivation of blood flow will result in a stroke with symptoms of weakness, numbness, and possible loss of speech. Anatomically, muscles protect the carotid artery. An injury requires great force and a very sharp blade.

Since Zednik was in superior general health, crucial minutes were added to the time frame during which a safe repair could be performed. The proximity of the arena to a hospital where an experienced surgeon was available also helped Zednik’s situation.

Locally, the Backus Hospital Trauma Center provides this service to sports venues including Mohegan Sun Arena, Foxwoods Casino, and Dodd Stadium.

This incident raises the issue of NHL players using more protective equipment.

Facial lacerations and eye injuries have steadily increased in frequency and severity. Hockey players have become bigger, faster, and stronger as compared to the “good old days” when no one would be seen wearing a now-required helmet. Protective collars are mandated by all junior hockey organizations. Some are made of lightweight Kevlar for maximum neck protection. Visors are also considered essential at the junior level and provide necessary eye protection without impeding performance.

Many professional athletes have come to the realization that by training harder and avoiding injury, they can extend their longevity in professional sports and earn more money. Hopefully, they will all soon realize that taking a more mature, business-like approach to sports includes the use of protective gear.

If you wish to learn more about carotid artery injuries or protective equipment in hockey, listen to the podcast or go to the Healthy Sports Blog at Norwich Bulletin or Backus Hospital.

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