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TAMPA, Fla. -- Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle has reached the point where he is ready to talk about what he has gone through over the past three months.
Sleep deprivation. Balance issues. A general lack of energy. How his life and his play suffered after a hit from behind in St. Louis left him unconscious for six minutes and grappling with the aftereffects of a concussion ever since.
"In hindsight, you see guys that don't even get knocked out and they're gone for two or three months," Boyle said Friday. "In hindsight -- and it wasn't the team that was forcing me, it was all me -- it would have been a good idea for me to stay away a little longer."
Boyle missed seven games spread over two weeks after being driven face-first into the lip of the boards by St. Louis Blues forward Maxim Lapierre on Oct. 15. Lapierre missed his next five games as the NHL suspended him for the illegal and dangerous hit.
Boyle, 37, decided to talk in a familiar setting, the suburban rink where he practiced while he was playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. But he brushes off the suggestion that he finally chose to open up because of the surroundings, or that he was with the Lightning in 2003 when he suffered his only previous concussion. That one kept him out of action for a week and left no lingering problems.
"I'm just talking now because it's enough behind me," Boyle said. "I don't have any energy issues. I don't have any balance issues."
He is aware, of course, that concussions are a major topic in the world of contact sports. But even after what he has gone through, he doesn't see the need for more rules as the NHL deals with the issue.
"At the end of the day, to me it's just respect," Boyle said in an earlier conversation. "If you don't respect somebody, you don't care and you'll do something that can hurt him."
Details of the defenseman's story show just how difficult the experience can be.
Sleep became Boyle's primary concern after the hit.
"Right after the concussion, for the first two weeks, I was sleeping all the time. Couldn't stay awake," Boyle said. "I'd go to sleep at 7:30 at night, sleep all day, sleep all night. After that, I hit another phase, which is common with some concussions."
Meals were also an issue.
"I wasn't eating. My wife was concerned," Boyle said. "I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't eating, I wasn't feeling good."
Still, Boyle tried to play through it even with only one or two hours sleep each night.
"At first, you can get through a couple games," he said, "but when you're two months in, I'm telling you, you're walking around like a zombie. It was really hard."
Boyle's game suffered.
"I was a second slow out there -- everything, my stride, my reaction time. Everything was just a little slow," he said. "And that's all it takes. All it takes in this game is just half a second. And it was creating a lot of problems."
Still, he waited until shortly before Christmas until asking the team for help.
"I have high expectations of myself and I didn't have the energy to do what I wanted to do," Boyle said. "Then it got frustrating. Again, I just kept thinking tomorrow's going to be better, tomorrow's going to be better. And it wasn't getting better."
The Sharks put Boyle in contact with the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. The team had consulted its medical staff to help deal with the time-zone issues surrounding San Jose's 2010 season-opening trip to Sweden, so a line of communication already existed.
The center came up with a nightly routine that Boyle still follows, and it has helped him both sleep and elevate his game.
"He had to fight through a lot," coach Todd McLellan said. "I do think he's beyond that now, that he's recovered and it's showing in his play. He's starting to sharpen up again and get back to the player he was early in the year."
McLellan said the world of sports is learning more each day about brain injuries and how they affect players.
"It's not an exact science," he said, "and every individual reacts differently."