From Brain Injury to Brain Surgery: The story of Matt Eagles
- October 7, 2021
- Matt Eagles is a former major junior and university level hockey player. He completed four years as a member of the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL, before moving on to play for the St. Thomas Tommies men’s hockey team while he completed a BA in economics. To follow up his hockey career and first degree, he went on to complete an MD at Memorial University in Newfoundland and is now a 5th year Neurosurgery resident at the University of Calgary. Currently, Eagles is working on an enfolded master’s degree in Health Economics.
- During his time at St Thomas, Matt was the team captain for the Tommies, Unfortunately, being a local favourite did not exempt him from the consequences of three separate concussions in a ten month stretch which ultimately led to the end of his playing career, however it did bring some much-needed awareness to the underlying issue of concussions. The most troublesome of these incidents came during a road game visiting Acadia University in January of the 2011 season, when Eagles was hit hard and unable to get to his feet after the impact, needing to be helped off of the ice. "I felt like Bambi on ice. I could not process information. When someone would ask me a question, I could hear them but could not understand what they meant." he said. His inability to process information was understandably very unnerving.
Can you tell us about anything that you would have done differently prior to having concussions, based on your knowledge of the subject now?
"As a young hockey player, I certainly did not take concussions seriously enough. It is worth noting that in hockey culture, there is a certain honour in having your bell rung while still getting back out on the ice to finish the game for your team. It is a concept that has been around far too long and fits into an ‘old school’ mentality. With continuous improvements to on ice rules, off ice protocols & research, and more and more advocacy, we are now beginning to realize that this is a very dangerous idea that should not be allowed. The player safety aspect of the sport, while still not perfect, is certainly headed in the right direction."
Is there anything that is different in your life now after suffering from concussion(s)?
"I am very fortunate to not knowingly suffer from any long-term effects. I know that other athletes have not been so lucky in this regard and hope that with a deeper understanding of these injuries and continued forward steps, we can find ways to prevent and manage them better."
- Matt's experiences have led him to a close relationship with the Concussion Legacy Foundation of Canada, and allowed him to take part in Memorial University’s ‘ConcussionU’ initiative while he completes his MD.