Kenny Orlando skated to the bench to clear his head during a morning practice last Thanksgiving.
The 22-year-old forward for the State University of New York at Canton had just collided heads with a teammate as they were going to the net and something didn’t feel right.
Orlando practiced through discomfort for another week, but sat out the final 17 games of season with a concussion.
“I was just like, ‘there’s something wrong with me, I can’t do it,’” said Orlando, who played with the Kangaroos at the NCAA’s Division III level. “I couldn’t push myself anymore. I was just brain fogged.”
The symptoms didn’t lessen for Orlando, which motivated him to depart from SUNY Canton, where his life revolved around the hockey program.
“We skated every day and besides the time in the classroom, everything else was dedicated to hockey,” he said. “We had work outs every day, practice every day. It was legit. You were there for hockey.”
A search for a new school led Orlando to Philadelphia—closer to his family and specialists for his prolonged concussion. Drexel and La Salle were of interest, but he was swayed by Temple’s academic reputation.
“I would say my original reason was because my friends went here, but that’s not the driving factor,” Orlando said. “It was just a reason for me to look at Temple. The sports management program that I do is actually number one or number two in the country.”
Orlando doesn’t feel healthy yet, but participates in vestibular rehabilitation therapy to help with focus and oxygen therapy to speed the process that eases some of the pain.
“The therapies are definitely helping,” Orlando said. “I’m doing different highs and balance ones. Different oxygen ones trying to ease the load on my head. It helps. It’s just some people heal in two days and some heal in two years.”
The delayed healing means Orlando is unlikely to play this season, so he was medically redshirted by coach Roman Bussetti.
“I’m handling him as a concussion victim,” Bussetti said. “It’s up to him and his doctor to be cleared, but he wants to be part of the team, so I offered him a redshirt position till he’s medically cleared. I don’t want him to push it. He’s got his whole life ahead of him, not just this season of Temple hockey.”
Orlando raced around the ice this past week at the Flyers Skate Zone during tryouts for the Owls, wearing a yellow pinny to signal to teammates he’s not to be checked.
“He has great skill and that shows out there and he is a great kid on and off the ice,” defenseman Jason Lombardi said. “He’s always a great teammate. I just wish he could get healthy and help the team out because we could definitely use him.”
Fellow transfer and sophomore forward Matt Maratea from Burlington County College also suffered a concussion at Penn State’s Harrisburg campus in 2011 and understands his teammates struggle.
“There’s really no timetable for your recovery,” said Maratea, who didn’t start feeling better until the summer of 2013. “You just have to wait until everything goes away and then you have to test it and move around a little bit, and if the headaches start coming back then you have to wait a little longer.”
Stephen Godwin Jr can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr.