Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand was chasing down a loose puck in a 2013 game against the New Jersey Devils when defenseman Anton Volchenkov lunged and elbowed him in the head.
Marchand staggered and fell to his knees. His teammates had to help him off the ice. The diagnosis: a concussion, one that kept Marchand from playing in the next two games and left him feeling out of sorts for days. He says, "Every day you wake up, you don't feel like yourself, you're in and out of it, and always lightheaded."
Thankfully, his symptoms subsided. But Marchand has seen the seriousness of head injuries firsthand. Concussions cut short the career of his former teammate, Marc Savard. Another Bruin, Patrice Bergeron, missed nearly the entire 2007-2008 season due to a concussion, and he has suffered two more since.
Although he's aware of the risks, Marchand can't be afraid to do battle with taller and heavier defensemen. His style of play puts him in places where he's likely to experience contact. "You have to dig into the dirty areas in front of the net and in the corners," Marchand says. "When you do that, you're going to get hit a lot."
But he adds, "If you want to be healthy, you need to find ways to protect yourself."
To reduce the risk of future head injuries, Marchand teamed up with Unequal Technologies, a company that makes impact-protection equipment for athletes and military personnel. Unequal's padding blends Kevlar® (the stronger-than-steel fiber used in protective police vests) with AcceleronTM (a durable elastomer) and a shock absorbing polymer layer called ImpacshieldTM. Together, the composite material reduces the acceleration of impact forces, dispersing energy away from the point of contact.
Today, Marchand wears Unequal's Solo head pad during every game. The lightweight and breathable pad slides easily into his helmet, molding comfortably to his head. "You don't even notice it's there," he says.
Marchand now feels safer on the ice, but he knows that the added protection is no substitute for making smart decisions. "If you're going headfirst into the boards and there's someone right behind you, you're going to hurt your head," he says. "You have to avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations."
Marchand has not suffered any more head injuries to date. He believes the Solo makes him more durable, which gives him a competitive edge. "At this level of the game, anything can make a difference—especially if you want to have a long career," he says.
The Solo head pad provides an additional layer of padding and protection in any hockey, lacrosse, baseball or action sports helmet. With no modification required, the pad slides in easily to provide a concealed and lightweight cushion. Air channels keep the head cool and dry, and the entire pad is hand-washable so it never develops that infamous hockey smell.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock