Brandon Carlo’s Concussion History, Timeline, and Long-Term Concerns

brandon carlo concussion

On Monday morning, Conor Ryan of the Boston Sports Journal specified Boston Bruins defender Brandon Carlo‘s upper-body injury sustained against the Arizona Coyotes in their home opener to be a concussion, on confirmation given by Carlo:

It appears that Carlo will return to action in the upcoming days for the Bruins. But this concussion serves as a reminder of a much larger injury issue that has plagued Carlo throughout his playing career. Carlo has now sustained five concussions as a regular of the Bruins’ d-core.

Five concussions are a staggering number for any given player. For Carlo, aged 25, this presents a boosted level of concern for the long-term health of the defender in both the future of his playing career and his life overall.

Brandon Carlo’s Concussion History


Brandon Carlo made his NHL debut in the 2016-17 season, eventually cementing a permanent role within the Boston defensive core.

Unfortunately, on the final day of the regular season, in a match-up against the Capitals, Carlo lost an edge as Alex Ovechkin initiated and finished a check along the corner boards. His head became the primary point of contact (incidentally), resulting in his head making powerful contact with the glass. The injury kept him out of round-one action against the Ottawa Senators. And was revealed to be a concussion after the Bruins’ round one loss to Ottawa, in six games.

The second concussion sustained by Carlo came a couple of years later in March 2020. It occurred just before the league-wide COVID pause.

A poorly controlled elbow of Evgenii Dadonov rode up into the head of Carlo, causing his head to snap back as he tumbled into the corner. This concussion did not result in significant time missed. However, this wasn’t necessarily due to a quick recovery from the injury, considering the league’s pause a week later.

Carlo’s toughest season of play arguably came in the 2020-21 season. He sustained two concussions and several other minor injuries, resulting in significant time missed in an already shortened season.

Concussion number one came in a March 5th contest against the Capitals, in a somewhat infamous hit from the hands of Tom Wilson. This concussion kept him out until the end of the month. The second concussion Carlo suffered from in the season cut his play short, as a high hit from Cal Clutterbuck in Game 3 of the second round in the postseason left him dazed and uncoordinated behind the Boston goal.

Long-Term Concern

Five concussions in just over six seasons of play is an obvious concern for anyone. As concussion and head trauma research continues to develop, knowledge and awareness of the effects that just one single traumatic event places on the brain and its long-term concerns continue to spread across the sports world primarily.

Understanding the general context of concussion effects holistically provides perspective on the magnitude of the seriousness of Carlo’s concussion history. On a mass basis in the NHL, five concussions (and recovering from all of them without significant issues) is quite rare. Carlo’s concussion history and general injury history may inspire inquiry on to what degree the injuries sustained by Carlo lie in luck.

To answer these questions, understanding the play-style of Carlo may prove key.

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Carlo serves primarily as a shutdown, middle-pairing defender who is often the first to retrieve pucks in the defensive zone. Oftentimes, Carlo faces the forces of heavy, physical forechecking presence. It requires him to make indirect plays on the puck (often strongly and intelligently) away from forechecking pressure into open areas behind the net, allowing his left-side defender to move pucks into transition.

Considering this style of play, combined with his role on the team, increased stress on his large but lanky frame may make sense. For reference, Brandon Carlo ranks eighth among all NHL defenders in individual hits against/hits taken, between 2019-20 to 2021-22, according to Evolving-Hockey.

In perspective, concussions may have some explanation. All but one concussion sustained by Carlo in his career came fending off the forecheck. Most of these came after making a play on the puck.

What’s Next for Carlo

Carlo is expected to return sometime soon, with encouraging statements coming from Jim Montgomery earlier Monday.

While appearing as if yet another concussion escaped, caution will certainly be required for handling Carlo in the future. That could come in reduced minutes or expansion in what hits keep Carlo out of action during the course of a game. Or perhaps another protective measure.

Another layer of concern (albeit less important on a holistic scale) lies in his performance when he returns.

In the past, apparent changes in Carlo’s approach to the corner boards and forechecking pressure post-concussion have left him prone to an increase in turnovers and failed zone exits.

This is what makes the 2021-22 season so important for evaluating Carlo. Playing in 79 games and finishing the season all but completely, fans witnessed the best of Carlo. He’s a middle-pair defender who can log valuable and effective minutes suffocating the defensive zone tight.

Carlo at his fullest health is a hallmark of the Boston defence. His impact elevates a top-four ranking among the league’s best. For a fan, a healthy Carlo is something to cherish.

Each additional concussion exponentially applies concern for Carlo and increases the chances one more hit to the head will result in a career being cut short.

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