Trouble With Hockey Podcast

Podcast Script

(SOT: 08)

Alek Salfia

Former Hockey Player

We were both skating full speed. He didn’t even see that I hit him and then he went down and he was done. And then after I hit him I just couldn’t even see.

RT (:15)

That was Alek Salfia (SAL-fee-ah) remembering suffering a concussion that almost killed him. Salfia (SAL-fee-ah) is a college freshman and former hockey player for 13 years. He still struggles to recall that day.

As he remembers it, he got a concussion checking in a hockey game and then three days later hurt his head again in a weight training accident.

SOT (:06)

Alek Salfia

Former Hockey Player

Someone was walking by with a bar and it hit the back of my head. We were like walking and then I guess I just blacked out.

RT (:04)

Although Alek has no memory of the ordeal, Laura Salfia (SAL-fee-ah), his mother, does.


Laura Salfia

Alek’s Mother

No, it was opposite. It was on hitting his head on the back of the bar, then the hockey injury and then when he went back to football on Monday, and he passed out.

RT (:03)

Regardless of the order, mother and son both agree on the symptoms.


Alek Salfia

Former Hockey Player

My parents thought I was like on drugs or something cause I was just completely out of it. I was a mess. I couldn’t really even think.

RT (:14)

His symptoms were misdiagnosed as a sinus infection and unfortunately, Alek skated that weekend. According to Doctor Wendy Wright, an Emory University neurology expert, a test called an ImPACT test would have picked up Alek’s injury by measuring changes in brain activity that trainers cannot detect.


Dr. Wendy Wright

Emory University Neurology Expert

It tests the higher-level functionings of the brain, parts of the brain that help us organize, plan, pay attention to detail. As opposed to the more basic functionings of the brain, which are to make sure our heartbeat and breathing centers are functioning.


Doctor Wright says prevention is the best treatment. The N-H-L has changed rules on checking to prevent concussions. Richard Kuerston (QUERE-stun) has been a referee since 1994 and says the rule changes have worked at the youth level.


Richard Kuerston

Veteran Referee

I see fewer players get injured. Their skill development increases, too.


But the changes did not eliminate injuries and the 20-10 to 20-11 concussion rate actually went up before leveling out in 20-11 and 20-12. Nearly half of all head injuries that occurred during the 20-10 season were caused by legal hits. In Alek’s case, his helmet offered little protection.

SOT (:08)

Alek Salfia

When I hit the kid, the piece of shit just cracked. That’s supposed to be the top of the line helmet. Then I got another one and it cracked as well. I threw them both out.

RT (:08)

Robbie Cressman teaches close combat skills to Canadian law enforcement groups and believes that training players on how to absorb a hit can help hockey’s problems with brain injuries.


Robbie Cressman

Close Combat Trainer

I’ve developed a model in taking individuals and being able to turn them into someone who can contend with surprise force and how to be able to redirect that. It allows someone to be more tactically in the game.


Alek never learned these skills and even with his top-notch helmet he suffered brain damage that affected him all through high school.

SOT(:14 )

Alek Salfia

Former Hockey Player

This happened like my freshman year so even last year as a senior if I hit somebody I would have like a weeklong headache. It’s probably a good thing my career is over.


John Keuler, Emory News Now.