Florida Panthers

Aaron Ekblad says he had ‘whiplash,’ not concussion

Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad is pursued by Columbus forward Rene Bourque in a game on Dec. 27, 2015, in Sunrise.
Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad is pursued by Columbus forward Rene Bourque in a game on Dec. 27, 2015, in Sunrise. AP

Aaron Ekblad was back on the ice with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday morning after leaving the NHL's World Cup of Hockey early with what appears to just be a scare over a concussion.

Ekblad, 20, says he suffered concussion-like symptoms after being rammed into the glass by Leo Komarov in the opening game of the World Cup between Team North America and Finland.

The diagnosis, Ekblad said, was a mild neck injury which he described as whiplash.

The way he was hit brought soreness to his neck and gave him a headache which was initially thought to be a concussion.

Ekblad left the World Cup early to see Florida medical personnel and has been skating all week.

GO BACK: Florida Panthers Aaron Ekblad injured at World Cup of Hockey

The Panthers cleared Ekblad for practice on Tuesday and he joined teammates that day.

“The way I was told, it was about blood flow,'' Ekblad said after partaking in his first full workout of training camp Thusday morning.

“When you get whiplash like that, there's restricted blood flow to the head and that causes systems because the blood doesn't drain out of head as fast. That's why you get symptoms without it being a concussion.

“There's pressure there in your head giving you headaches. ... I'm just trying to be a better hockey player. In the end, it's about getting that 1-percent edge on everyone."

Ekblad suffered a concussion last January when he was hit by Edmonton's Matt Hendricks.

That concussion cost Ekblad four games -- the Panthers went 0-3-1 in his absence -- and he said brought about the neck problem which has now been identified.

Ekblad says now that he and doctors know what caused his concussion-like symptoms in Toronto, they have a better chance of dealing with future problems.

"I have to be more aware,'' said Ekblad, the 2015 NHL rookie of the year.

"You train your body, you train your brain. I'm doing a lot of eye exercises -- I know, I'm just being told all about this lately. Everything kind of connects."

Ekblad signed the richest deal in franchise history this offseason when he was inked to an eight-year, $60 million extensions which kicks in next year.

Florida had its full compliment of World Cup players back Thursday as Ekblad joined Jussi Jokinen, Sasha Barkov and Vincent Trocheck on the ice.

"It's good to have them all back," said Gerard Gallant, who was an assistant for Ekblad and Trocheck's North American team in Toronto.

"They got a little break from the World Cup and now they're ready to go."

The Panthers have a preseason game Thursday night in Tampa with most of their veteran players sitting that one out.

Ekblad and a number of Florida's top players are expected to make their exhibition debuts either Sunday in London, Ontario or Tuesday in Dallas.

Florida plays the Stars in both of its next two exhibition games after Thursday's game against the Lightning.

"I played six pretty tough games against the best players in the world,'' Barkov said. "We're ready right now and I can't wait to get playing here.''