Blog Entry

NHL diving head-first into concussion issue

Posted on: March 14, 2011 6:52 pm

BOCA RATON, FL –  It was probably just a coincidence that Sidney Crosby skated this morning for the first time since sustaining a concussion while the league’s general managers were gathering to discuss the growing problem those injuries have become.

The absence of hockey’s marquee player has helped make concussions and player safety the league’s biggest hot-button issue of the meetings for the second year in a row, with the reaction to the controversial hit by Boston’s Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens last week adding the kind of fuel to the fire that Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard did last March.

That time, the spotlight pushed the managers into producing Rule 48, a statute that outlawed blind-side hits to the head. And the rule has actually had a positive effect, with NHL’s stats showing that the number of man-games lost to concussions caused by illegal hits has declined by more than half.

Problem is the overall concussion numbers are up this season, and mostly because of legal, if often accidental plays. The GMs saw a lengthy video presentation of more than 50 plays that caused concussions, with the bulk of them coming from collisions between teammates, body checks that cause players necks to whiplash or from players hitting the boards, glass or ice. NHL stats showed that fighting played a small role in the increase as well, but with the reality being that players are bigger and faster these days, the GMs know they are going to find it a challenge to make things safer for the players.

“Everybody wants that, but you don’t want to change the fundamental nature of the game,” Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. “The league has done a lot to make the game the great product that it is, and you have to be careful about maintaining that.”

Still, there was a consensus among the GMs that some changes are necessary to make things safer, even in subtle ways like re-defining some rules.

“There’s a definite will to do something, maybe to lower the threshold between what’s acceptable and not acceptable,” Montreal’s Pierre Gauthier said. “We have the ability to do that, to make some adjustments without changing the entertainment value, to address where we draw the line.”

In the meantime, commissioner Gary Bettman made sure no one could say nothing came out of the first day by announcing a plan of attack he will push at the next Board of Governors meeting in June.  It’s a multi-dimensional approach that will be tasked with everything from studying arena safety issues including design and materials around the ice surface, to reducing the size of the equipment to hold teams and coaches more responsible for the actions of their players.

But the most immediate impact will come from a revision of the concussion protocol that will change how a player is dealt with immediately after he is hit. The affected player won’t be tended to on the bench, instead being taken to a quiet place to be examined by a physician. This change will be implemented within the next few days after the league holds conference call to explain the procedures to trainers and doctors from all 30 teams.

“The protocol has been amended and it will be enforced,” Bettman said. “We will from a league standpoint monitor it to make sure it is being complied with and if it isn’t appropriate sanctions will levied.”

 That type of protocol might have prevented Crosby’s concussion from becoming as serious as it did. The Penguins superstar was noticeably shaken up by a collision during the Winter Classic, but continued to play and was later cleared to go against Tampa Bay a few days later.

Crosby was taken hard into the end glass by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and hasn’t played since, but Penguins GM Ray Shero said making that connection isn’t all that simple. He noted that his own son sustained a concussion during a youth hockey game a month ago, but continued playing in several games and practices after that.

“I saw Sid the day of the Tampa Bay game, around 4:30, and we talked for about 10 minutes,” Shero said. “It never occurred to me that there was anything wrong. He looked fine. And my own son, I live with him, and I didn’t notice anything.”

Shero said he is personally in favor of banning all hits to the head, but like most of his colleagues, saidthat striking the right balance between physicality and safety isn’t easy.

“These are delicate injuries and they’re not easy to deal with,” Shero said.”Our job is to have more dialogue about making things safer for our players, but at the same time to maintain the nature of the game.

“The good thing is that we’re gaining more and more knowledge about concussions and being more proactive in dealing with them. That’s a positive for the league.”

True, but having Crosby on the ice would be a bigger one.

Category: NHL

Since: Mar 18, 2011
Posted on: March 18, 2011 9:42 am

NHL diving head-first into concussion issue

I just reviewed one of Don Cherry's "Rock em, Sock em" videos and I can't believe this guy hasn't been fired from CBC sports for his instigation of violence in this game.  I am convinced, beyond doubt, his insistance that fighting in hockey is normal.  If you want to start to address the issues of violence and unnecessary and undue injury (specifically concussions), you need to start by censuring Don Cherry or remove him completely from the media sphere.  As a taxpayer in this country, I want CBC to consider it's decision to retain this guy as a colour commentator. 

He's detrimental to the game and the players

Since: Feb 11, 2008
Posted on: March 15, 2011 5:38 am

NHL diving head-first into concussion issue

My son suffered a slight? light?concussion playing football this year, minimum three weeks no contact. In the pros, insurance, pressure by the teams,they have them out there risking there lifes and certainly their health long term and maybe fatally short term , don't you love the medical field, nothing slight or light about it, like a mild herniated disc, gee I feel so much better with this.
It's so mild, I sleep much better.
 Think the medical field is making progress in letting people know just how serious and what dangers, the vulnerable condition of the brain, after such a trauma, whether it be light or slight concussion. Guess when the patient arrives in the ER with a head trauma pronouced DOA, they will say he died of a heavy concussion? Maybe I'm wrong,maybe it's the reporters are the ones to blame, in not reporting just how dangerous a concussion is, which then sets the tone for public opinion.
 Getting a bit long in tooth perhaps, don't have that raging need for spilled blood my testesterone once allowed me to find pleasure in, at this point in time can only empathize with the parents of Sidney Crosby, Max Pacioretty, and all the others!

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