By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun
I'm happy to report that I'm feeling better. But I've found out the hard way that one of the tricky things about concussions, is that feeling better is not the same as being better.
Take the other day for example. I was feeling good enough that I thought about starting to work out again. Since last January, doctor's orders have been "no physical exertion" and I don't mind admitting I've been going stir crazy.
Before going down to the gym, I decided to take my dogs for a walk -- and it's a darn good thing that I did. When we got to the top of a little hill, my head started pounding and the reality of this concussion hit me -- again. No way was I ready to work out and, in fact, if walking the dogs brought back the headache from hell then I'm a long way from taking chokeslams and power bombs.
It's a perfect example of what my doctor means when he says not to try and diagnose myself. Me wrestling right now would be like a drunk getting behind the wheel of a car without realizing how impaired he is.
Doc told me he had three hockey players with concussions as patients at the same time. Two heeded his advice and are back to work. The third was riding an exercise bike to try to stay in shape and he's still out. It makes me wonder how much more damage was done to me by all the bumps I took in the three weeks following my match Dec. 19.
I knew I was hurt but my judgement was so impaired that I didn't do the normal thing -- which would have been to go to the doctor. Instead, I told WCW I thought I had a concussion and I stumbled through the next three weeks in a daze, doing whatever they asked, including a hardcore match where I was dumped out of a trash bin and accidentally dropped on my head, being a punching bag for a rookie, and even speeding my rental car up the icy ramp of an arena!
As far as the later after my brother Owen died doing a stunt, I'd be the one guy who should know better than to be racing cars up ramps, but my head was so screwed up that you could have asked me to walk across eight lanes of traffic and I would have.
I don't think WCW had any idea how seriously hurt I was. In fact, both Nash and Jarrett sustained concussions at that time and WCW called me to work extra dates while they went home to heal.
That I agreed to work the extra dates -- in addition to a number of untelevised title defenses -- shows that I didn't get it either, but a guy with a bad concussion can't be expected to "get it" because your brain is too broken to figure it out. When I did go to the doctor, it didn't take them long to figure out that I have serious multiple concussions and I wouldn't be wrestling for quite a while -- if ever again.
I think concussions are generally very poorly understood because they come in so many varying degrees. For example, both Nash and Jarrett were able to return to work in a short time because, luckily for them, their concussions weren't as bad.
I wonder if I'd be back in the ring by now if I hadn't worked for those three weeks after my initial injury. And what I really don't think is right is that because I'm not back, they've cut my pay in half. I suppose I should be grateful they haven't terminated me, but then that's just looking at things from a wrestler's perspective.
Wrestlers are so far behind when it comes to unions and benefits that it's pathetic. I'm sure if John Rocker got hit in the face with a baseball, the Atlanta Braves wouldn't cut his pay. It doesn't work that way in major league sports.
I've found that a lot of people have no understanding of what the effects of a serious concussion are. They see me holding conversations or signing autographs and they think I'm fine and tell me they're glad to see I'll be back to work soon. They just don't get it. And I've got letters saying it's great that I'm back in the gym training (I'm not), or telling me that they're happy to hear I'll be back in the ring this summer (I won't), and I even have e-mails wishing me luck on my big match coming up with Hulk Hogan in Canada in August (a nice thought, but there is no truth to it whatsoever).
I don't know where these rumours get started, but the truth is that I am prohibited from working out until at least July and if I'm given clearance then, I couldn't possibly get back in the ring before September.
A couple of weeks ago a mentally challenged young man in Minneapolis was quite upset with me because I hit Hogan with a chair. He was insistent, "But why did you do that to Hulk Hogan? Why? Why?" For the first time in my entire career I was dumbfounded and had no answer.
The kid's father was apologetic that his son was so adamant. In fact, I felt it was the boy who deserved some sort of an apology although I wasn't sure if he was upset because I hit his hero with a chair, or because I'm his hero and he was disappointed in me. I heard myself saying, "I have a concussion and I don't know why I did it -- and I am sorry."
It bothered me that I gave the boy what I felt was an excuse. Now it bothers me even more because I realize it wasn't an excuse at all, it's the truth, I'm relieved that, while I'm still dealing with the lingering effects of the concussions, my head is clear enough now that I can see how impaired my judgement has been.
While I'm not back to wrestling and as important as wrestling is to me, I am back in an even more important way.
It's nice to be back.