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DIAGNOSIS

The injury was simple to diagnose because McCleary was not breathing, was grabbing his neck, was blue around his neck, and had a mouth full of blood. In addition, there was immediate swelling around the neck wound.

TREATMENT

Treatment began as he left the ice. First, the Montreal trainer removed his mouthguard so that McCleary would not choke on his own blood. Before he reached the hospital, the area was iced to lessen swelling, and the airway was kept open. Once at the hospital, McCleary received an emergency tracheostomy, a procedure in which doctors make an opening below the obstruction in the throat and insert a tube, allowing air to flow to the lungs. He also needed a thorocotomy, a procedure in which a tube is inserted into the chest to drain excess fluid. After the surgery, he was treated with supportive care. He would then need surgery to reconstruct the larynx, but that surgery is far less critical.

PREVENTION

The injury, caused by a blunt trauma, cannot be avoided except by protecting the area. If McCleary, or any other NHL player, were willing to wear a protective neck shield, this injury would not occur. But given the fact that the injury is extraordinarily uncommon, players do not sacrifice comfort and flexibility for the added protection. Goalies, however, do wear a shield around their neck for protection.

RECOVERY

McCleary can return to walking and daily life within a week or so, but he will need longer to recover to the point where he can again play hockey. The collapsed lung alone would keep him out for 4-6 weeks, and the fractured larynx alone would keep him out for about 3 months. Over that time, he will be regaining strength and lung capacity, as well as letting the larynx heal.

LONG-TERM OUTLOOK

The injuries that McCleary suffered will in no way affect his physical ability to play hockey. However, his voice will likely be altered due to the injury.

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