Thought We Could Help Out the Player Safety Czar

Below is our suggestions for the NHL regarding the Raffi Torres hit from last night – BTW it was described by me as pure thuggery – regardless after some time thinking we have composed our thoughts in the format used by the league;

Option A

I am Brendan Shanahan of the National Hockey Leagues’ Player Safety.  Tuesday night in Chicago there was an incident that involved Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes and Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks.  This particular incident was not penalized at the time but after reviewing the film and interviews we have determined further discipline is warranted.

In the 1st period Raffi Torres hit Hossa in the open ice, but as you can CLEARLY see the puck was not in the vicinity of either player nor was it just immediately played by Hossa.  As Torres delivered the contact he left the ice and his principal point of contact was with his shoulder to the head of Hossa.

This is a clear violation of SO MANY rules; Rule 48 with states […] and Charging which states […] being the main concern.  Also very disturbing is the blatant lack of respect of a fellow player on the ice.

We understand this is playoff hockey but Continue reading

NHL Power Brokers to Meet

As the weather warms that means the General Managers of the NHL go south to Florida for the meeting of the minds.  Last year the Commissioner laid out a plan to help curb the concussion issue in the NHL with ideas that included: the quiet room, expansion of Rule 48 and increased penalties from Shanahan.

Where has that gotten the sport in relation to concussions; if you look by pure number it would be an actual increase, however I do believe those measures have indeed helped.  But there is more they (GM’s) and league can do, if they want to.  Part of fostering a game/sport is to realize that there needs to be changes, often ones that go against tradition and the good ol’ days.  People, including those that run hockey seem to forget that this game was not invented with today’s player in mind, the speed and skill has far outgrown this pastime, change is inevitable.

What can the NHL do to make the concussion issue better – don’t ask the Deputy Commissioner; Continue reading

League of Fans Open Letter

Recently I have been introduced to “League of Fans”, a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to encourage social & civic responsibility in sports industry & culture.  Although the name sounds  non-germane on the surface if you dig deeper into their core principles you will see they are starting to delve into the concussion issue.

One of their first salvos is an open letter to Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League – oft criticized by me and the blog as well.  Below is the letter signed by Ralph Nader and Ken Reed (reproduced with permission of League of Fans);

An Open Letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: 

It’s Time To Ban Fighting

  Continue reading

NHL Concussion Thoughts

Recently there has been a spike in awareness and number of concussions in the National Hockey League.  Last year we began compiling the injuries in our database to see where the sport stands (we also do NFL, NCAA football, and Aussie Rules Football).  When Sidney Crosby sustained his initial concussion in the Winter Classic last year it seemed that NHL has begun to take notice.

It was refreshing to see The Star of the NHL deal with the brain injury with some transparency, although he endured some criticism what Crosby did was set into motion the awareness of concussions.  Last season prior to the new year it was very difficult to find actual listed concussions; they were veiled in “upper body” or “undisclosed” listings.  In some cases the injury was improperly reported as a neck or shoulder injury; a sign that the concussion was either a) not understood (unlikely) or b) needed to be hidden.

Before you read on it is important to understand the position of the blog and this author about concussions.

Concussions, brain injuries, are an inherent part of collision sports.  There is very little in the way of equipment that can prevent concussions, the only way to impact a positive change (see decrease) is to address the culture and mechanics of sports.  This does not mean that professional sports should be outlawed, rather subtly changed to protect those that play, not only for the immediate time, but for the long-term health of the athletes.  With this; Continue reading

Hockey Gets Underway Friday

The National Hockey League began its preseason media blitz yesterday with a heightened awareness on the head injury in the sport of hockey.  Last season the NHL adopted Rule 48, banning blind side contact to the head, it was later expanded at the Winter General Manager Meetings to include lateral contact.

At the same time other leagues were continuing with their rules of no head contact; International Ice Hockey Federation (international sanctioning body of the sport), the NCAA, and possibly the biggest contributor of NHL talent the Ontario Hockey League.  The NHL with the ingrained “tough guy” mentality of the general managers and the deep seeded tradition of the game seem to be missing the point.

The league’s best players, Continue reading

Bravo Hockey Canada!

On May 28th Hockey Canada, the governing body of amateur hockey throughout the nation, sent out a press release tightening down on the rules for contact to the head;

  • zero tolerance measures for all head contact or checks in minor, female, junior and senior hockey:
    • in minor and female hockey, a minor penalty shall be assessed for all accidental hits to the head, while a double minor penalty, or a major and game misconduct at the discretion of the referee based on the degree of violence of impact, shall be assessed for any intentional contact to the head; Continue reading

Lightning Get Struck Twice

Last night the Tampa Bay Lightning took a one game to none lead over the number one seed Washington Capitals.  However in that game two players for the Lightning were removed with head injuries.  The most publicized and dramatic of the injuries was Simon Gagne as seen in the video below;

Gagne has had a concussion history beginning in 2002, but was pretty clear until 2007 when with the Flyers he missed 26 games; only to miss another 44 the following year with more concussion issues.  After Gagne’s head bounced off the ice like a basketball and he was clearly unconscious it would be easy to assume he sustained yet another concussion.

As if losing one of their wingers was not enough, Pavel Kubina was taken to the boards by Jason Chimera in a hit that should be Continue reading

NHL Taking It Slow: Commentary

As the general managers meet in Florida for the last day, what has come from the meeting the past two has been “tightening of the ship.”  Rather than take sweeping changes and possibly modifying the game to ends that make the owners and their proxy, general managers, uneasy the standards/statements made thus far have at least let us know they are fully aware.  And it has shown that money or fear of losing money drives the ship.

On Monday the league announced that the protocol for a player showing concussion signs will be removed from the bench for a thorough evaluation by a doctor.  I opined that this was a good first step, what I didn’t mention was that I didn’t like how the connotation from the media and even the league that the athletic trainer may be at fault.  Taking the player from the bench is a “no-brainer”; the instinct to hop the boards when your shift is called far outweighs the honest answers a player may be inclined to give to the athletic trainer behind the bench.  Also, removing the player from outside influences, say peers and coaches, makes this move both warranted and good “window dressing.”  This particular move does nothing for the player that will give dishonest answers in an effort to return to the game, the hopes are that using the SCAT2 model, to the ‘T’, will identify more concussions.  Is it a move in the right direction?  Yes!  Just remember before others go on a rampage saying the athletic trainer would not be qualified to do this; the SCAT2 was developed by and for athletic trainers to use, on a hockey bench there is neither the time or space to do such an evaluation.  Part of the umbrage I take as well is the influences of the coaches, peers and players themselves when the injured is still on the bench.  The athletic trainer has never been viewed as an overriding authority on the bench/sidelines in professional sports, which is a shame because that is their profession and that is what they are trained to do.

On Tuesday, there was no move by the league to ban hits to the head, like the IIHF and OHL have done.  Rather the league will enforce Continue reading

High Profile Rugby & NHL Announcement Part 2 & Crosby

The International Rugby Board instituted greater safety for concussed players by updating their protocol.  The trouble is, we cannot find a text of exactly what this new protocol is.  Nevertheless the IRB changes are being tested this week by Ireland player Eoin Reddan;

Reddan lasted less than two minutes of the defeat to Wales on Saturday after suffering a concussion just 60 seconds into the game at the Millennium Stadium.

Although he is recovering well he will have to see a neurologist this week as part of the concussion management under the IRB concussion ‘Return to Play’ protocols.

While Reddan has not been ruled out of the England match, Ireland have been boosted by Tomas O’Leary’s return to fitness following a back problem.

We can see that constant monitoring of the injured, along with further clearance from a neurologist is part of this protocol.  Reddan is most high profile athlete to take part in the new IRB ‘rules’ with concussions.  It will be interesting to see how Reddan and rugby deal with this.  The next match, versus England, is scheduled for Sunday.

SOURCE

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The NHL further broke down their stats Continue reading

That Was Fast

Gary Bettman announced after the first session of GM meetings in Florida that the NHL will now adopt a more rigorous protocol for players exhibiting concussion symptoms.

Under the new protocol, any player showing concussion symptoms must be examined by a doctor in the locker room. Until now, an examination on the bench by a trainer was the minimum requirement.

Bettman said the league also will study using smaller equipment and making the playing area safer. He said other rule changes might emerge from the meetings, which conclude Wednesday.

Kudos for getting the players off the ice and get them examined.  The Gravboski incident may have never occurred if this were in place weeks ago.  However this situation would not have changed the Crosby situation as his first head injury occurred at the end of the second period and went to the locker room.  It is assumed that IF Crosby told the medical staff that he had concussion symptoms he would have been evaluated.

This is a good start; now to get the players on board with reporting the issues…

SOURCE

Rise of NHL Concussions Bad Luck?

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was recently quoted (AP Story):

“(He)…. believes the rise in NHL concussions this season is a result of “bad luck”.

He went further in saying:

“I’m not saying that no concussions came from hits to the head, but it appears that the increase is coming from somewhere else,” Bettman said.

Before I critique either of those comments, I will preface this by saying it is possible these quotes were taken out of context of a longer conversion not covered in the AP story.  Personally I believe Commissioner Bettman was really stating that it  was its “bad luck” that the league superstar (aka Sidney Crosby) sustained a concussion and brought increased media attention to NHL concussions.  But regardless of the intent of the comments, this headline should be seen as a negative for the league.

As this blog has extensively covered, this NFL season vaulted ‘concussions’ into the public consciousness and conversation.  As a result, many states and organizations are now rushing to create and enforce  stronger return-to-play guidelines.  I don’t think there are many informed medical professionals that will agree with the Commissioner’s assessment that the increase in concussions is purely related to statistical chance or luck.  With the league struggling to regain and retain fans post-lockout and TV viewers post-Olympic bump, many will agree that the speed, the hits and the fights (true even though the NHL will deny it) are the main draws of the sport.

As we have and many other media outlets have reported, the NHL has Continue reading