It’s been about 10 months since Joel Perrault played competitive hockey, battling post-concussion syndrome since the second of two concussions suffered during the 2004-05 season with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.
The former fifth round pick thought he was ready to play again this summer, and started working out. But at training camp in Anaheim, just the physical contact of playing a scrimmage brought all the symptoms back. He had to sit out for another three months.
Perrault’s symptoms included headaches, severe fatigue, trouble sleeping, nausea, and his whole left side was numb for a long time. “It was pretty bad,” he described. But he never lost memory or consciousness.
“That was the only positive sign,” he said. “It’s probably the worst injury you can have when you’re a hockey player.
“They took care of me pretty well because they don’t want to put me on the ice too soon,” he said of Anaheim, Cincinnati and Portland, Anaheim’s new AHL affiliate. “It can be very dangerous, you have to think about your health first.”
Concussions were a new thing for him, the two last year were his first. “And hopefully my last two,” the 22-year-old said, managing a smile. Both were the result of hits.
“The first one was I think a bad hit, boarding. It shouldn’t have happened. The second one was a good hit, I just hit my head on the boards. Just bad luck.”
These 10 months have been a very trying time for him, unable not just to play hockey, but unable to do many things most people take for granted.
“With a concussion you’re not allowed to do anything,” he recounted. “I played golf in the summer because I felt good then. But the last three months I haven’t done anything. You become almost depressed because you’re not allowed to – it sounds stupid, but just go for a beer with friends. You can’t even watch movies, read. You don’t feel good afterwards. And maybe it will take more time to come back [if you do].”
The Montreal native was getting down with holidays approaching and going a bit stir crazy.
“After two months in Portland, I asked my coach and my trainer if I could go home for two weeks. Just get away from all these things — I had to watch practice and games every day. So you see all your friends have fun and have to sit out and not do anything,” he described. “So I went home for two weeks and saw my family, my brother and friends. When I came back after those two weeks, I felt way better than I had. I had some treatments at the osteopath. That helped because my neck was pretty sore too.”
Perrault also saw chiropractors in Cincinnati and Portland following both concussions, which he said helped a lot.
“There was a misalignment in my neck with my third vertebra, so I think that caused me a lot of headaches,” he said.
He’s participated in full practices with Portland for two weeks and then was assigned to the Augusta Lynx of the ECHL on Jan. 5 for conditioning.