Gopher senior Amanda Kessel discussed how she initially got concussed and how she has recovered enough to rejoin the Gophers for the remainder of the season with Pat Borzi of the New York Times. Kessel initially did not want to discuss her treatment and recovery immediately after her return to the ice for the Gophers, but she opens up about her symptoms and the recovery process in the article.
Kessel's initial concussion took place even earlier then anyone had previously known. Her initial injury took place in a US team scrimmage months before the Soci Olympics. "Somebody tripped, took out my legs and I went headfirst into the boards," said Kessel, who could not recall exactly where or when it took place.
Kessel said she sat out for a month an a half and missed a Pre-Olympics game tour with what was at that time called a "lower-body" injury. In fact she was dealing with concussion related symptoms. Kessel returned for the Sochi games and was one of the team leaders in scoring. However, after the games things deteriorated quickly. "Going into Sochi, I felt well," she said. "Then a week and even months after, I noticed these weird things that I thought were normal, but they weren’t — sensitivity to light, headaches, fogginess, and I was nauseous all the time. I couldn’t figure out why, because I wasn’t hit again or anything."
Kessel initially was treated at the Carrick Brain Center in Georgia. However, while some of her symptoms dissipated, others still remained. She would withdraw from classes at Minnesota while undergoing treatment and miss the entire 2014-15 season. Things turned around this past summer when she began to see Dr. Micheal Collins, head of the Sports Medicine Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Instead of limiting physical activity like previous physicians had suggested, Collins advised Kessel to regain physical activity.
"That was really the main piece that started turning things around," Kessel said. "Being a highly active athlete, and then doing nothing for a year and a half, that wasn’t helping my symptoms. I started working out, started doing things, and my symptoms continued to do better. Thirty minutes of cardio a day is pretty much what I was doing for a while. At first it was tough, because I couldn’t understand why you were doing more when you don’t feel well. Then I really started to understand more and more what I was doing. A month into treatment, I re-enrolled in school."
Kessel began skating on her own in September, and rejoined the Gophers for practice in January. After a month of practice and examination by several doctors, she was cleared to play again and made her debut against North Dakota two weeks ago.
Kessel continues to get more comfortable on the ice, and will me a major aid to the Gophers as they make a late push for their fourth NCAA Title in the last five seasons. The Gophers road will not be easy however.
Minnesota finishes the regular season this weekend with a series at Ridder Arena against rival Wisconsin. The Badgers are ranked #2 in the nation and the wrapped up the WCHA Regular Season Championship last weekend. The Gophers are locked into the #2 seed in the WCHA playoffs, so this weekend is for pride more than anything. However, you can bet it will not be he last time these two teams see each other this season. The Gophers and the Badgers will meet again at the WCHA Frozen Face-off at Ridder in two weeks if both teams take care of business in the first round and the semi-final. Of course that's no gimme either as Minnesota and Wisconsin will most likely see either North Dakota or Bemidji State in the semi-finals, opponents that have given both teams fits this season.
Of course the dirty little secret in the room is that unless things change significantly with the NCAA pairwise in the next 3 weeks, Wisconsin and Minnesota will enter the NCAA Tournament as the #2 and #3 overall seeds setting up the potential of their third NCAA semi-final meeting in the last three years. Minnesota has won the previous two, but the Badgers have been very impressive this season, sweeping the Gophers in Madison. There is no guarantees once you reach this time of the season, but you know both teams would want nothing more than to knock each other out of the NCAA Tournament. Before we get to that point, we still have a few other loose ends to clean up.
The Gophers and Badgers will face-off at 7:00 Friday night, and at 3:00 Saturday at Ridder. The Saturday game will be aired on BTN, so if you have not seen the Gophers yet this season here is a great chance to do so. The Gophers will also honor their five seniors on Saturday; Kessel, Minnesota's all-time leading scorer in Hannah Brandt, goalie Amanda Leveille, defenseman Milica McMillen, and Brook Garzone. The five seniors have combined to record 680 points on 268 goals and 412 assists. From 2012-13 to 2015-16, Minnesota is 140-8-6 for a .929 winning percentage and has a 98-6-6 mark in WCHA games. The Gophers have outscored their opponents 750-173 during the seniors’ four years in Maroon and Gold. Not too shabby.
Good luck to the Gophers this weekend, and as always, Better Dead Than Red.