When David Poile dove into the free agent market this summer and signed the player who was largely considered the cream of the crop at center, Nashville Predators fans were justifiably excited for two reasons - 1) the Preds rarely foray into free agency, and 2) Matthew Lombardi appeared to fit the exact needs of the roster after the departure of Jason Arnott.
It was with a fair amount of frustration, then, that Predators fans reacted to his concussion sustained in just the 2nd game of the year. With each passing day, we still have no word on the health of Nashville's marquee acquisition, other than the occasional "there's no timetable", and so, the frustration grows.
Any way you look at it, its not a good situation, for any of the parties involved.
A concussion, in case you haven't heard, isn't any fun - and Matthew Lombardi has now had two (that we know of). Worse yet, though, are the after effects. Post concussion syndrome, according to the Mayo Clinic, includes symptoms such as "headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, loss of concentration and memory, and noise and light sensitivity...[they] occur within the first seven to 10 days and go away within 3 months, though they can persist up to a year or more."
Trying to recover from a concussion is quite the ordeal - you could wake up one morning feeling just fine, only to have your symptoms return when you attempt to exercise. As such, there's a lot of uncertainty. It leaves the fans not knowing when an important contributor will return to the team, which while annoying, is a relatively minor problem.
Furthermore, David Poile and, to a lesser extent, Barry Trotz, are left between a rock and a hard place. If Lombardi were to return to practice next week, then no roster adjustments need to be made - but what if a month? Or even not at all in 2010-11? You can bet that Predators' management would like to make some sort of move to offset the loss, but as long as Lombardi's situation is in limbo, then there's really no move to be made.
Perhaps most frustrated, though, is Lombardi himself. As a professional athlete and a competitor at heart, I can't imagine how it feels to watch your teammates go on without you, particularly when they're struggling.
All of that said, this is a bit different from your average sports injury - there are lasting effects at risk here, and it isn't something to be rushed back from or played around with. Additionally, after your first concussion, each subsequent one becomes more difficult to rehabilitate. The risk of re-injury is also fairly high.
Matt Lombardi is 28 years old, with a wife and family. While its true he makes more money than you or me, he puts his pants on in the morning just like the rest of us. As long as Lombardi is still having post-concussion symptoms, he should avoid physical activity. No injury is worth risking the rest of a playing career and even his quality of life now and later on.
If Matthew Lombardi doesn't play another game this season, or the next two, then that's alright with me - I'd rather he return to complete health not playing hockey, and be able to raise his children symptom-free than contribute a single second of ice time to the Nashville Predators. I'll celebrate right along with you when he's been cleared for physical activity, but we'd do well to remember that, at the end of the day, its just a game.