Wisconsin Freshman Overcomes Medical Condition, Scare
by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer
In the dark of the early morning on Nov. 23, Wisconsin’s hockey team unpacked their gear. The team had just arrived in Madison, Wis., after suffering a 3-2 loss to Denver in the tail end of a Colorado road trip.
“I hadn’t eaten a sufficient amount, and by the time we had gotten back, it was around 3 a.m.,” freshman Adam Rockwood says. “My muscles are used to sleeping and recovering at that time, not unpacking bags and walking in the cold.”
It was the “perfect storm,” Rockwood and Badger head coach Mike Eaves say.
“We were playing out in Colorado, we were playing in altitude, we played back to back games. We traveled and got home really late in the morning,” Eaves says. “[Rockwood] had been doing the things that he thought he needed to do to stay on top of it, but it wasn’t enough.”
"It" refers to Rockwood's condition. The November road trip, schedule and late arrival combined to worsen Rockwood’s CPT II, a rare disorder that leads to muscle pain and weakness — or in a worst-case, long-term scenario, eventual organ failure.
Rockwood was hospitalized.
“It was surprising because you never now how serious this stuff can be, and it was just shocking that he was in the hospital and how long he had to stay there,” Rockwood’s teammate Jason Ford says.
This was the first time Rockwood had been hospitalized because of his CPT II. For almost a week he stayed at the University of Wisconsin hospital, where the staff drew his blood six or seven times a day. While recovering, Rockwood started losing his weight and game shape.
“That was kind of rough, losing my shape,” Rockwood says. “And watching the games was hard because I wanted to be out there really badly.”
After his release, Rockwood returned home for winter break. But the forward wasn’t allowed strenuous exercise until later, a month after his hospital stay.
“I didn’t want to do any more damage to the muscles, so it wasn’t like I was like exercising certain muscles,” Rockwood says. “I was just kind of resting.”
Rockwood, who missed four NCAA games and an exhibition contest after his hospitalization, needed to regain his size and game shape.
“I think he’s responded well,” Eaves says. “It was good that he was able to get home and he could build his body back up. He had to get used to practices and playing again, but because there’s a break for Christmas I think that helped him in getting back [faster].”
Rockwood returned to the lineup Jan. 2, and registered an assist in Wisconsin’s 8-1 loss to Michigan Tech. But the forward wasn’t feeling like himself.
“Michigan Tech [is] really old and fast and it’s a really tough team to come back to after six or seven weeks off,” Rockwood says. “I thought I wasn’t quite up to speed yet but we got the win, we got the win Saturday and that was really fun to be a part of, especially my first weekend back.”
For the Love of Hockey
Rockwood still gets chills when he thinks of his first game at the Kohl Center. The Badgers hosted rival North Dakota, and Rockwood’s name was called as a starter in front of an almost sold-out rink.
“That was really cool for me, especially coming from a junior team that doesn’t get fans,” Rockwood says. “It was just a really big difference.”
It’s been almost 15 years since Rockwood started skating with pucks and sticks, but the British Columbia native still loves dissecting the game.
“When you talk to him, he sees things on the ice,” Eaves says. “He says, ‘Okay coach, what about this situation.’ So he’s very much a student of the game and it’s fun to be around him and talk to him.
“You can go to him and get him to in-depth conversations about the game, the power play, penalty killing and he picks up things really quickly.”
Rockwood averages 0.36 points per game, second amongst Badger freshmen. His five points are tied for fifth on the team.
“[From] the first time skating with him, it’s obvious he has a very good skill set, and I would say his ability to read the ice and his vision. He has unlivable hands too,” Ford said.
“He’s awesome in practice. He’s a very competitive guy and he always goes hard in practice, he keeps it upbeat and always has good energy.”
Since the first time they met, Ford and Rockwood have become close friends.
“He’s a really fun loving guy,” Ford says. “He’s awesome to hang around and someone you always text to come over and hang out with. He’s got a pretty good sense of humor so that’s always nice to have.”
Ford missed more than Rockwood’s contribution to the lineup when his friend was sidelined.
“You miss him off the ice too,” Ford says. “He’s a great teammate and someone you love to have in the locker room too. We missed him both on and off the ice.”
Unlike most freshmen, the 19-year-old has taken a leading role. He spent the first half of the season with veterans Joseph LaBate and Jedd Soleway, and now centers Grant Besse — one of the team’s top forwards.
But like most freshmen, the forward has faced a challenge in stronger opponents and a faster place of play.
“He’s definitely grown up, he understands the college game a little better now. He’s still got lots of room for growth, he knows that, and he’s excited about that,” Eaves says.
“One of the things that will help him tremendously is the strength and conditioning part of our program here, because that’s one area that he can get in the corners and battle more and be more effective and have strength over the puck. He’s going in the right direction and that’s the really fun part about watching Adam right now.”
Since his return, Rockwood has played in six games and has three assists. The 19-year-old is on a two-game point streak.
“He’s getting stronger, he’s gotten stronger since his first game back,” Eaves says.
Challenging CPT II
Rockwood was diagnosed with CPT II eight years ago. His older brother, Michael, also had the rare condition. Because CTP II is a genetic disease, Adam was tested. To keep the disorder under control, Adam and Michael have to meticulously monitor what they eat since their bodies can’t process medium chain fatty acids.
Rockwood’s parents, Paul and Jo-Anne, raised Michael and Adam to eat healthy, so the disease caused a minor tweak in their diets. But in case of an emergency, the Rockwoods keep healthy products like Ensure drinks stocked at home.
“It’s just kind of always being aware, when’s the last time I ate [and] how do I feel,” Rockwood says.
The freshman has the least severe type of CPT II, but if the condition is not managed it could lead to organ damage. But Rockwood kept the complications at bay for most of his career, which included two overtime contests in the 2014 BCHL Fred Page Cup.
Rockwood scored an overtime, game-winning goal in one of the games. He added the shorthanded, game-tying goal in the fourth game as his Coquitlam team defeated Vernon for the championship.
“It is pretty impressive because it’s hard when you’re going to school and playing hockey and you have so much going on,” Ford says. “It’s kind of respect [of] the fact that he has to do a little extra just to keep up with it.”
Despite the travel involved in Wisconsin’s schedule, Eaves and Rockwood consider the events post the Colorado trip a one-time occurrence.
“It’s kind of fortuitous that it happened early in his career because it heightens the need for Adam to stay on top of it even more so than he thought he was doing,” Eaves says.
Along with focusing on his eating habits, Rockwood now takes supplements. Other than a small virus he’s fighting, Rockwood says he feels back to normal. And he doesn’t expect another hospital visit.
“The thing with this disease, once it goes away it doesn’t come back until you let it come back,” Rockwood said. “I don’t really plan on doing that any time soon.”