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Jonathan Toews health update: Why Blackhawks captain remains out of lineup, and may not play again this season

Jonathan Toews remains in Chicago post-trade deadline. However, there is a chance that Toews does not suit for the Blackhawks again this season. 

The Blackhawks captain was one of the names expected to be on the move to a new destination, but Toews is still a member of the organization that he brought three Stanley Cups to due to ongoing health issues. 

Toews released a statement on Feb. 19 detailing the health concerns that he has been dealing with. As a result, he would be taking time away from the team, and it is unclear if he will play again this season. 

A statement from Captain Jonathan Toews ❤️

— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 19, 2023

“First of all, thank you to the fans and all those who have shown concern about my absence,” Toews said in the statement. “I’m still dealing with the symptoms of long COVID and chronic immune response syndrome.

“It has been really challenging to play through these symptoms. In the last few weeks, it has reached the point where I had no choice but to step back and concentrate on getting healthy. I am thankful for the patience and support of my teammates, the coaching staff, and the entire Blackhawks organization.”

General manager Kyle Davidson confirmed reports that same day that Toews would not be moved, stating that the focus was on getting Toews back fully healthy, not a trade. 

“We’re not thinking about (trading Toews),” Davidson said. “We’re trying to help him get back to full strength, and that’s totally secondary. We miss him being around the team, and we want to get him back around the team and on the ice.

But in the meantime, we’re going to work with him and support him in whatever he needs to make sure he’s feeling good and feeling strong and in a good spot where he can come back on the ice. So, we’ll take it day by day. But the hope is that he can still play some games here down the stretch. Hopefully he’s here to finish out the season.

Toews last played on Jan. 28 in a game against the Oilers. If he’s done for the year, he will have finished with 14 goals and 14 assists in 46 games played. 

It’s not the first time Toews has missed time in his career due to health issues, and it begs the serious question about his future playing hockey. 

MORE: Bruins, Hurricanes lead the post-trade deadline NHL power rankings

The Sporting News has more details on Toews’ health condition that is keeping him out of action.

Jonathan Toews health history

Toews dealt with a case of COVID-19 in February of 2020. That was before the pandemic hit the United States and shut down the 2019-20 NHL season. 

After overcoming his bout with COVID-19, Toews began “dealing with fatigue, digestion issues, labored breathing, his arms and legs feeling like lead weights and more symptoms.” 

With the delayed start to the 2020-21 season, training camp would not begin until late December and go into January for the NHL. On Dec. 29, 2020, Toews and the Blackhawks announced that he would miss training camp and there was no timetable given when he would return.

The reason for his absence was not made public. Toews went on to miss the entire shortened 2020-21 NHL season. 

In June of 2021, Toews revealed to the public that he had been dealing with what the doctors called, “chronic immune response syndrome.” He admitted that he “wasn’t too vocal about the things that I went through this year” and felt bad about leaving the fans in the dark. 

“I just think it’s a lot of things that just piled up, where my body just fell apart,” Toews said at the time. “What they’re calling it was chronic immune response syndrome, where I couldn’t quite recover. My immune system was reacting to everything that I did, any kind of stress, anything that I would do through the day, just there was always kind of that stress response.

“It took some time, and that was the frustrating part, was not knowing when or how we were going to get over the hump. But thankfully I have a great support team of people that helped me through it and learn about the stress I put on my body during the years.”

MORE: Patrick Kane dealt to Rangers for minimal return to Blackhawks

Toews returned for the 2021-22 year, playing in 71 games and recording 37 points. While his production wasn’t at the standard it used to be, Toews looked like he was getting back to full health and suffered no setbacks. 

The same can be said about this season, until a month ago. That’s when Toews and the Blackhawks stated that he was still feeling lingering effects from before and the two sides decided it was best for him to focus on his health and put hockey second. 

What health condition does Jonathan Toews have?

Toews has been dealing with two health issues: chronic immune response syndrome and long COVID. 

What is chronic immune response syndrome (CIRS)?

Chronic immune response syndrome is also referred to as chronic inflammatory response syndrome, or CIRS.

According to the Virginia Center for Health and Wellness, CIRS is a “progressive, multi-system, multi-symptom illness characterized by exposure to biotoxins. The ongoing inflammation can affect virtually any organ system of the body and if left untreated becomes debilitating.”

Toews first made the news of his illness public in the summer of 2021, after he missed the whole 2020-21 season. Dr. Greg Sharon of AMITA Health discussed the causes and effects of the disease and how it may have impacted Toews. 

MORE: Who has the most points in a single NHL season?

“He was probably exposed to mold his whole life,” Sharon said. “(And) genetically, the more athletic, the more flexible you are, the more likely you are to develop some of these immune reactions. That stress combined with lack of sleep can lead to mold sensitivity. When you overreact you get tired, fatigued, joint aches and pains, difficulty with your belly and interestingly, this affects your brain.”

What is long COVID?

Long COVID is when people are still experiencing lingering effects from COVID-19. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it is a post-COVID-19 condition that can include a wide range of ongoing health problems for weeks, months or years.

Also referred to as post-COVID conditions, the ongoing symptoms are found more often in those that have had a severe COVID-19 illness, which lines up with Toews’ experience with COVID in February of 2020. 

However, there are cases where someone with post-COVID conditions may not have tested positive for the virus, or not know they were infected. 

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