Branden Troock can feel Sidney Crosby's pain.
Like the Pittsburgh Penguins captain, who after a lengthy battle with concussion-like symptoms was recently diagnosed with a soft-tissue neck injury
, the 17-year-old Troock endured a similar state of affairs.
Troock, a native of Edmonton, was knocked unconscious in a game on Oct. 31, 2009 when he was playing for Team Alberta in the inaugural Western Canada Under-16 Challenge. An opponent, whom Troock didn't see coming, hit Troock under the jaw line.
Troock suffered a concussion, but after he had recovered from his head injury the headaches and nauseous episodes continued. The migraine headaches became such a problem that Troock was counselled to find another career.
But he didn't want to give up and neither did Seattle Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell, who selected Troock 12th overall in the 2009 WHL bantam draft. Before he had departed to play for Team Alberta, Troock played nine games for the Thunderbirds and exhibited promise. He scored two goals and six points at age 15.
So Farwell and Thunderbirds athletic therapist Phil Varney kept searching for answers, even though the mysterious injury kept the young player on the sidelines for the rest of the 2009-10 season and all of last year.
"My concussion healed but I kept having headaches after and I didn't tell anybody," Troock explained on Wednesday evening, when in another chapter of his return to hockey he scored the game-winner
for Team Orr's 2-1 win over Team Cherry in the annual CHL Top Prospects game.
Troock visited three different neurologists. After a bevy of tests it was determined that he was dealing with a pinched occipital nerve in his neck. After undergoing acupuncture treatments and a protocol of some Chinese herbs that were supposed to improve circulation, Troock's migraines began to subside.
"When I came to camp for Seattle the next year it was just a pinched nerve that got aggravated," he said. "Then I just had constant headaches. All the doctors kept saying no concussion."
Troock was given the newly named Jim Gregory Award as Team Orr's MVP. He also assisted on his team's only other goal before 5,022 onlookers at the Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C.
Rated 90th among North American skaters in the recent mid-term NHL central scouting rankings, it will be interesting to see how much the 6-foot-3, 205-pound forward improves as he finds his groove down the stretch.
"It was just everything about hockey that I missed," said Troock, who has nine goals and 16 points in 37 games for the Thunderbirds this year. "Missing all the development, missing being in the dressing room with the boys. It was pretty bad.
"I couldn't get out of bed without puking. I couldn't do anything physical. It was a tough road. But I didn't try to get too low or even too high when I had high points, when I would start to feel better."
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