OTTAWA — The more you listen to Brad Gushue discuss the lingering effects of a concussion he suffered five months ago in an on-ice fall, the more you wonder if the Newfoundland skip — and 2006 Olympic gold medallist — would be competing here if he was an athlete in just about any other sport.

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This article was published 6/3/2016 (2308 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The more you listen to Brad Gushue discuss the lingering effects of a concussion he suffered five months ago in an on-ice fall, the more you wonder if the Newfoundland skip — and 2006 Olympic gold medallist — would be competing here if he was an athlete in just about any other sport.

In an era in which everyone from hockey players to football players to soccer players have to be 100 per cent symptom-free before they’re allowed to return to competition after a concussion, Gushue is curling for Newfoundland at the Tim Hortons Brier despite the fact he is still suffering the lingering effects of slamming his head into the ice during a Grand Slam event in October.

MICHAEL BURNS JR. CURLING CANADA</p><p>A pair of dark semi-circles under Gushue’s eyes are yet another post-concussion effect still dogging him.</p>

MICHAEL BURNS JR. CURLING CANADA

A pair of dark semi-circles under Gushue’s eyes are yet another post-concussion effect still dogging him.

"There’s still some effects, for sure, and I notice it especially when I get tired," Gushue said in an interview over the weekend.

"I still have some bad days and days where I’m definitely not feeling as good as I should be."

'It's not hockey ‐ no one is going to come along and suddenly bodycheck me into the boards'

It’s a stunning revelation when you ponder it — an athlete in the year 2016 admitting he’s competing despite the fact he is suffering post-concussive effects.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the symptoms Gushue describes are the ones that have been distinctly visible on his face at TD Place to the thousands of fans in the stands and millions more watching at home on television — a pair of dark semi-circles under Gushue’s eyes the Newfoundland skip confirms are yet another post-concussion effect still dogging him.

"The dark circles is still some ‘staining’ that the doctor tells me will go away in a few months," explains Gushue.

"And they will definitely go away. It’s not that I’m tired or sick or anything. But it does look bad. It makes me look older than I am."

So why on earth is a young man with a young family competing this week in exactly the kind of loud, high-stress and physically demanding environment doctors specifically recommend concussion sufferers avoid until they are symptom-free?

Because, basically, curling is still pretty much a free for all when it comes to concussions. Consider: After slamming his head into the ice during a game at the Masters in Truro, N.S., Oct. 31, Gushue was taken to hospital, received seven stitches to close a head wound and then immediately returned to the arena and played the seventh and eighth ends of the same game in which he was injured.

Gushue went on to play the rest of his team’s winter cash-spiel schedule as planned and ended up having a career season — his team is atop the World Curling Tour money list.

But Gushue says he was steadfast in his determination to play in this year’s Brier.

"There was nothing that was going to stop me from playing here this week," said Gushue, whose team was 1-1 heading into Sunday night’s draw and comes into this week as a favourite to end what has been a 40-year drought for Newfoundland at the Brier.

Gushue insists his doctors have cleared him to continue curling, although he stops short of suggesting he’s been given a clean bill of health.

"The doctors think I’m pretty good and I don’t feel bad enough not to play," said Gushue. "It might be more of a struggle than normal, but I think I will be fine."

That’s the thing though — in almost no other sport would that call be left up to the individual athlete. But unlike the strict concussion protocols put in place the last few years in leagues from the NHL to NFL to CFL, even the governing body of curling in this country doesn’t yet have rules on concussions.

A spokesman for Curling Canada said this weekend a concussion protocol for curling has been drafted, but it won’t go into effect until after it is presented and, presumably, adopted at the organization’s annual meeting this summer.

In the meantime, curlers will continue to make their own medical decisions and Gushue is taking comfort in the fact he’s been successfully curling — and winning — for months since his concussion.

He believes his risks this week are relatively low.

"Curling is different. It’s not hockey — no one is going to come along and suddenly bodycheck me into the boards."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.