Despite what the NHL and its hired doctors will have you believe, the cumulative effects of head injuries, concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) are devastating. Just ask Cissi Franzen, wife of former Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen.
The 38 year old former Stanley Cup champion was not played in the NHL since 2015 following a blindside shoulder hit by Edmonton Oilers winger Rob Klinkhammer. Franzen suffered a concussion on the play, the fourth of his professional career, and it would ultimately put an end to his playing days. More than three and a half years later, Franzen is still feeling the effects of CTE and, according to Cissi, those effects are extremely concerning.
Cissi updated her personal blog at Franzenresidence.com yesterday with a truly heartbreaking story of her husband’s condition. Here’s the full account, unedited:
"I don’t know where to start, but this week has been really hard and extremely emotional. Monday morning the kids, Lisa and I flew out to Denver, Colorado to visit Johan. He’s been going thru an intensive treatment program at Marcus Brain Health Institute, and this last week was a family week where I joined in for a lot of sessions. He’s still dealing with post concussion syndrome, and the last months have been really bad. Something needed to happen and I’m so thankful we found this new amazing place. It opened up in March and they treat vetarans and athletes with brain traumas. Johan was actually their very first athlete.
"First day when we came was a great day, so nice to see each other again. Second day – terrible and we got in to a huge fight. Probably normal in most relationships, but when you have an brain injury it adds up, and it becomes SO not rational. The brain just can’t paus and take a break when it’s overloaded and can’t recover. He bounced back to a very dark and sad place. However, I’m glad it happened while we were there. The amazing top of the line team at ‘The Marcus’, handled the situation so professionally, they rescheduled his and my schedule completely the day after to treat him as best as they could. You could feel how they all genuinely cared for Johan, and also me.
"He was teamed with three vetarans, and they have all become very close to each other, sharing their stories and situations. For me it was also great to get together with the other wives, same there sharing our stories along with LOTS of tears. I have not been crying this much in a very long time. So as I said, it’s been very hard, but also GREAT! They have a really good approach where they target all different aspects of PTSD, everything from auditory processing, balance, vision and tools to deal with dark thoughts of depression and ways to learn how to calm down with meditation and mindfulness, and to be proactive to give themselves a longer fuse.
"We are for the first time very hopeful for the future and Johan feels much better from when he started the treatment. It’s not gonna be easy, but now he has a plan on how to go forward and can also start to work out slowly again, we have learned how to handle different situations better, and the doctors and therapists are still there for us and will continue to follow up. I’m super proud of my husband for getting his lately lazy butt out there!!
"Living with a husband with a brain injury is not easy, it’s like a rollercoaster. But I am doing my best to get us to a better place, not only for us and but also for our amazing boys that deserve the best!!"
Tragic. Here’s hoping that Franzen can get through the dark days and end up living a normal life on the other side. The big winger signed an 11 year, $43.5 million deal with the Wings back in 2009 that runs through the 2019-20 season. Of course, Franzen is unofficially retired due to his injury and the Wings get salary cap relief by way of the NHL’s long-term injury reserve rule. Again, here’s hoping he makes a full recovery.