Marian Hossa, widely considered one of the best two-way forwards to ever play hockey, the 38 year-old winger for the Chicago Blackhawks will miss the entire 2017-18 because of side effects from a medication used to treat his skin disorder. This is a very rare and surprising issue, especially for an athlete who has been in the league for the past 20 years. It appears that Hossa has been privately undergoing treatment for a progressive skin disease, and certain medicines can lead to a significant amount of side effects and make training as vigorously as Hossa needs to, very challenging. Hossa did not officially say he was retiring from hockey, but instead taking time away help get his medical issues under control.
Although details are scarce, there are very few skin disorders that cannot be treated, or at least get under better control, in the 4-month time period between when the regular season ends and the next one begins. The most common medicines used for chronic skin disorders are oral steroids, like prednisone, as well as some stronger medicines like methotrexate, which is an immunosuppressant. Like many medications, these are not natural to the body; they are just being used to treat a specific disease. Prednisone is a very common medicine that could possibly be part of Hossa’s treatment, as it is used for many diseases including pulmonary infections to skin disorders. Think of prednisone as the ultimate anti-inflammatory; unfortunately it is notorious for causing weight gain, feeling jittery, fatigue, mood changes, increased risk of infection, and poor sleep. I hate to speculate about exactly which disease that Hossa has, and which medicine that he has been placed on, but unfortunately that is all we can do until further information is released.
Unfortunately for Hossa, his disease is so severe that his treatments have not only impacted his job, as a professional hockey player, but also in his daily life. Hossa did mention that he would no longer be commenting on his health. Team physician Dr. Michael Terry admitted that Hossa’s skin disorder has become increasingly difficult to treat, and that the medications he would normally use to treat the issue have been avoided due to Mr. Hossa’s occupation. It sounds like the disease is continuing to give Hossa and Dr. Terry issues, and now the plan is to take a more aggressive approach. This means that Hossa will not be able to play until the disease is stable and under better control. This decision was a joint one between Hossa, likely his family, coaching staff as well as Dr. Terry.
This issue is very rare, especially in sports. It is unclear of the exact etiology of his allergy, but whatever the allergy is; it is apparently too significant for him to continue playing without treatment. My suspicion is that Hossa suffers from a severe allergic reaction secondary to the lining of the clothing or the exact polyester that all of the manufacturers of the uniforms and equipment use. Often teams will have the equipment companies create a special uniform or protective gear that avoids the use of the agent causing the issue. Standard treatment for this would be to avoid the substance causing the allergy altogether (if possible), and if not then consult an allergist and immunologist who would slowly help Hossa to desensitize the skin through a series of small injections or exposures to the specific allergen.
The Blackhawks have likely exhausted all of these resources, or Hossa’s disease has got to a point where playing with this equipment any further puts his life in danger. Allergies have a wide range of possibilities, and can range from a simple rash to severe hives, which look like someone has been stung with a bunch of bees, all the way to severe shortness of breath, the inability to breathe, and possibly an anaphylactic reaction. I think putting his hockey career on hold is a very smart move, but an unfortunate one though. While sometimes us crazy sports fans want to believe that sports are above all, but this is indeed not the case at all. Preserving the health and well-being of the athlete and their family supersedes the occupation itself.
This was written for the @TheFantasyDRS by Dr. Jesse Morse. I am a Family Medicine trained physician, and I will be beginning a Sports Medicine Fellowship at the University of South Florida in Tampa soon. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me directly at @DrJesseMorse or visit my website at: www.DrJesseMorse.com Stay tuned for the next article!