SBD/March 1, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Columnists Say NHL Should Do More To Protect Players From Concussions

Some believe the condensed schedule is causing increased concussion issues
The NHL has "become a landmine," with star players "down everywhere" due to concussions, according to Wayne Scanlan of the OTTAWA CITIZEN. There are "anywhere from 10 to 18 depending on the injury list consulted, and that doesn’t include the 'undisclosed' injury cases." Injuries were "expected to be a factor" in the condensed 48-game schedule, "but the recent epidemic is startling nonetheless." Scanlan asks, "Where is the game plan to educate players and reduce injuries, especially head injuries?" While the NFL has "taken dramatic steps to protect its star players ... the NHL spends more time playing with its crayons, doodling divisional alignment scenarios." Scanlan: "Remember when the NHL enforced the 'quiet room' strategy for suspected concussion victims?" It "didn’t last long," and now it is "up to the training staff and coaches of individual teams to ensure players with head injuries don’t return to action immediately." Some NHLers "believe the time has come to take a comprehensive look at protecting players" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 3/1). In N.Y., Jeff Klein noted at least 11 players in the past two weeks are “believed to have sustained” concussions, including Penguins C Evgeni Malkin, “thrusting the issue of head injuries back into the spotlight.” Many of the recent injuries, including Malkin’s, “were not caused by hits deemed worthy of fines or suspensions.” The CBC estimates that 90 players last season “missed games because of concussions," representing about 13% of NHL players "on active rosters on a given night” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/27).

SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau wrote, "Despite the NHL’s efforts to address what has become an alarming issue in many sports, there’s still far more the league can do to mitigate the unacceptable number of head injuries we’re seeing." Proteau: "I no longer think that a complete headshot ban could work at the NHL level." But there are "practical, very doable ways for the NHL to go further than it has in protecting players to this point." The first is "mandatory sit-out periods for concussed players." The second is for "independent doctors to examine players." The last thing fans should want to see is the "rash of deeply troubled retired athletes like we're currently seeing with former NFL players" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 2/28). Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Andrew Gross asked, “Should concussions be a public matter?” All concussions in the NHL “are reported internally,” but teams are “no longer required to specify injuries to the media, beyond reporting a player is out.” Yet it "just seems intuitive the more public knowledge there is of a problem, the more pressure can be exerted externally to help promote player safety” (Bergen RECORD, 2/26).
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