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Healed and happy, former Olympian David Leggio back in goal after life-changing injury

These days, David Leggio feels happy and healthy. Nearly a year after suffering a scary, life-changing concussion, the goalie is enjoying his 11th pro season.

“I’m probably better off as a person because of it,” Leggio told The News of his concussion ordeal by phone from Germany. “Yeah, at the time, it wasn’t the most fun.”

Earlier in his career, the Williamsville native said some “minor concussions” sidelined him a week or two. But Leggio had never experienced anything like the head injury he suffered March 3, when an opponent plowed into him at full speed.

“I wasn’t knocked out, but I was pretty messed up,” said Leggio, who played for Munich EHC last season, a DEL team.

Leggio said his biggest problem was related to his upper cervical, “where my head like turned and twisted up.”

The St. Joe’s graduate battled the effects of the concussion for months.

Leggio went through emotional issues – “Kind of like mood swings or not feeling right or like anxiety, depression,” he said – that were out of character.

“I typically don’t let little things bother me, and a lot of the time the smallest thing could absolutely make my blood boil,” he said. “It improved over time.”

Symptoms would also materialize when Leggio exercised. When he went to Disney World with his wife, Kristen, and their son, Leo, in May, he could only walk around a little bit before he needed a break.

“It kind of impacted my quality of life on a day-to-day basis,” Leggio said. “To be honest, I didn’t know if, one, I would be able to play hockey anymore following that injury, and, two, if it was the best thing for me to do.”

Leggio, who was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in February in South Korea, eventually sought help at the University at Buffalo, where Dr. John Leddy, the director of the school’s Concussion Management Clinic, developed a rehab plan for him.

Leggio also said his recovery “just took off” when he began working with Dr. Jeremy Rademacker, a local chiropractor.

“Once I started working on the recovery, I started getting better pretty quick,” he said. “There was some symptoms that lingered. I can say confidently now that I don’t have any problems at this point.”

Toward the middle or end of July, Leggio started exercising and skating again.

“It’s treatable, so I just had to put the time in,” he said.

Early in the process, Leggio passed opportunities to join European teams for this season because he wasn’t ready. While he had offers from North American clubs, he signed with Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams, another DEL squad, in September.

“Some of the stuff that lingered was more of the emotional stuff,” Leggio said. “You know yourself, you know how react to certain situations, whether it’s social or stress or whatever. I didn’t truly feel like myself probably until September or October.”

So far, Leggio has played 22 games this season, compiling a 7-13-0 mark with a 2.94 goals-against average, .903 save percentage and three shutouts.

Leggio said he would “like to keep playing for a while.”

“I still love playing,” he said. “My body is great.”

Following a five-year run in the American Hockey League – he was one of the circuit’s top goalies with the Rochester Americans in 2011-12 and 2012-13 – this is Leggio’s fourth campaign in the DEL.

“Of all the European leagues, the DEL is probably the most North American,” he said. “You have more imports in this league than the others.”

Leggio, who runs a goaltending school in the summer, also wants to keep coaching.

“I don’t know if I’ll do that when I’m done playing as a profession, if it’s possible,” he said. “But I’ll definitely coach in some regard, whether it’s my job (or not). I love coaching, even if it’s just helping kids or working with my son’s team or something like that, it’s definitely something I want to be a part of the rest of my life.”

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