With the sport of hockey getting a primetime start in a game outdoors, taking a quick look at how concussions may effect the sport is in order. There is more professional hockey than the NHL in North America; in the United States (also including Canadian NHL teams) there are 114 professional hockey teams. With an average of 21 players per team, that would be 2,394 players in lower North America. This figure does not include the scores of Canadian hockey leagues and teams.
A recent study found that nearly 1 in 10 players suffered a concussion while playing hockey, leaving a stunning 239 players getting a concussion in a given year. An article from the Calgary Herald, written by Alan Cameron examined just this.
“I remember driving home with my dad and he’d have to pull over because I had to throw up,” recalled Drader. “He’d say, ‘What’s wrong?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know. I can’t remember the game.’ But I’d be in the next game three days later. Nobody really knew what was going on until later.
“I’ve had doctors tell me that I shouldn’t be playing, but, obviously, with my love of the game, I didn’t listen to them. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, and it’s not a message I’d want to send to the kids.”
Tyler Drader is a current coach and former player, and he also feels now is the time to make a culture change in the “tough guy” sport of hockey.
The most recent data are shocking to many involved in the sport. A pilot study conducted by University of Alberta assistant professor Martin Mrazik during the 2009-10 season in two Edmonton-area minor hockey associations found that about one in 10 players suffered a concussion that required missing game or practice time.
It’s the latest wake-up call to a sport that once prided itself on its play-through-the-injury attitude. Concussions can be a mercurial injury, notoriously difficult to diagnose, and doctors are only starting to understand the long-term cumulative effects. But as data mount about its serious effects, many people in the sport are working to find ways of making hockey safer.
Mrazik’s study has been recently expanded to a two-year time frame with more teams to find out the true story. The hope is that this study will expand on a previously published report on two teams over 52 games. In that limited group there was a concussion rate of 25% and 41% of the concussed received a second concussion over that same time frame.
Even more alarming, perhaps, was the display of the “suck-it-up” attitude, in which players refused to acknowledge the effects, and potentially more serious after-effects, of the concussion.
It is utterly obvious that hockey is a bit behind in terms of awareness, diagnosis, and compliance with concussions. It is hopeful, like that of football and the NFL, the National Hockey League can begin to set standards and be examples for the other leagues. By the way, this is where I urge Commissioner Bettman to LIST YOUR CONCUSSIONS!