Wave of Concussions Hits the N.H.L.

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(from the New York Times, February 26, 2013)  In the last two National Hockey League seasons hits to the head had become a topic of concern.  Concussion talks were catalyzed after hockey star, Sidney Crosby, missed 60 games and went through a 14 month ordeal of problems related to a concussion.  While the lockout carried on, however, talk of player safety shifted to revenue percentage.  For most this shortened season, concussions have not been of great concern.  In the past two weeks 11 NHL players have suffered from head injuries, pushing the issue of concussions and player safety back into the spotlight.

The NHL has increased emphasis on reducing concussion and the league is in its second season of playing under the newly revised version of Rule 48.  This rule now penalizes hits that target an opponent’s head or make the head the principal point of contact.  However, most of the recent injuries were not caused by hits ruled worthy of fines or suspensions.  According to CBC network, about 90 players missed games due to concussions last season.  That is 13% of players on active rosters each night.  NHL regulations state that clubs are not required to disclose the nature of a player’s injury.  Because of their history with Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins are very open in disclosing concussions and head injuries.  The club has hired a new fully staffed medical team and is now taking their own doctors to road games.  General Manager, Ray Shero, is a progressive voice in support of tighter concussion protocol and stricter rules and fines for hits to the head.  Not all teams are as open when it comes to concussions, and that can make it difficult to get an accurate account of head injuries.  Clubs are not allowed to give out misleading information regarding a player’s injury, but many teams are still reluctant to state specifically that a player has incurred a concussion.