SBD/December 19, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Outbreak Of Players Suffering Concussions A Problem For NHL

Crosby is one of many NHL star players currently sidelined due to a head injury
The NHL has a "concussion outbreak on its hands," as the "sheer number of players with concussions is disturbing enough, but what is perhaps equally disturbing is the news that at least three players passed Impact concussion evaluation tests yet were still suffering symptoms," according to Klein & Hackel of the N.Y. TIMES. The NHL "seems to be taking the stance that the current epidemic is an unfortunate statistical coincidence and that no policy changes are warranted" (, 12/17). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont noted no matter what the statistics "might tell us, the optics are bad and getting worse." The NHL has "something wrong with its head, specifically the concussed brains of its rank-and-file stick carriers, and no one is sure what to do about it." To its credit, the NHL has "paid attention for a while, implementing baseline testing and return-to-work protocols that were ahead of, or at least in lockstep with, other professional leagues." And Dupont noted things are "improving under" NHL VP/Player Safety & Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, at least from a "penance-and-pay standpoint." But there are "numerous other ways to dial back on the concussions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/18). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “For once the league is finally identifying and treating and enforcing recoveries from concussions, which they have to do” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 12/16).

SOMETHING MUST BE DONE: In N.Y., Pat Leonard wrote it is "difficult to avoid calling it an epidemic." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "defended the league on his weekly radio show Thursday, reminding listeners that the NHL is fully aware of how serious the concussion issue is." Bettman: "We’re doing our best to be very proactive in terms of diagnosis and treatment." He cited the softer Plexiglass boards, concussion treatment protocols and stricter rules governing hits to the head. Bettman added, "It’s important, and people are working on it every day." But Leonard wrote Bettman is "missing the point." No one is "saying the NHL is doing nothing, and if they are, it's not true." What is "clear, however, is that the league's current measures to prevent concussions are not good enough" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/18). In DC, Tarik El-Bashir noted when "so many stars are sidelined simultaneously" -- including Penguins C Sidney Crosby, Senators LW Milan Michalek and Flyers D Chris Pronger -- the issues "need to be reexamined and serious questions must be considered" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/16). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "This is a huge problem they seem to be dragging their feet on in the NHL." ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “In hockey, the speed at which you are hit is amazing at this point. As Ken Dryden suggested today in Grantland, you can’t wait for the science on this. Your eyes should tell you that there is a real problem.” Wilbon: “You have to treat this like an emergency and it doesn’t seem like the league is” (“PTI,” ESPN, 12/16). The WATERLOO RECORD editorial stated hockey "can't be played without some risk." Professional players "understand that." But Crosby's concussion, its "lasting effects and the head injuries that continue to be suffered must prompt a more careful review of the game" (WATERLOO RECORD, 12/15). In Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic lists his remedies for concussions in sports (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/19).
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