Sunday, March 27, 2011

Concussions in the NHL

Concussions have become the main issue in the NHL recently. General Manager meetings and tougher enforcements of head shots are steps that are being taken to try and reduce the concussion rate in the NHL. However, there isn't a way that concussions are going to be completely taken out of the game. Hockey is an extremely physical sport, and there's no way to take the physicality out of the game if you want to keep hockey the way it is today.

This issue of concussions in the NHL took center stage when Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby suffered one in the Winter Classic, and has not played since January 5th. Earlier this month, head shots and concussions were the number one item on the list during the GM meetings. It's clear that the league is trying to take stands to reduce the type of hits that will lead to concussions. A perfect example of that is the suspension of Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, after he deliberately elbowed New York Ranger defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Also, they will be taking a more aggresive approach to examining players that have suffered concussios, or possible concussions, before allowing them to play again.

The Nashville Predators have had their fair share of problems with concussions this year. Matthew Lombardi has been out with a concussion since October 13th, and has been ruled out for the remainder of the year. Francis Bouillon has also been sidelined with a concussion, and his return is doubtful for the remainder of this year. It's an injury that doesn't have a timetable for a possible return. Each individual reacts and recovers from concussions differently. Added to that, is the fact that a player is more susceptible to concussions after they have already suffered a first one.

Take Dan Hamhuis, a former Nashville Predators defenseman who now plays for Vancouver, for instance. Hamhuis has had two concussions this year, with the most recent one coming on March 27th against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He's now had a total of four concussions in his career and has said he would consider retirement if he continued to suffer from concussions. "If I ever felt like it's like putting myself at risk long term, then I'll have to step back and think about things", he said.

The NHL has a much better system of diagnosing and treating concussions than other sports like the NFL do. There are more tests you have to pass to return to action, and it usually takes longer for players in the NHL to return than players in the NFL. If you think about that, it makes perfect sense. Football is a violent sport and there are extremely hard hits. However, in hockey the players are moving at speeds close to 30 mph on the ice. Obviously, the impact of players going at that speed is going to be higher and far more dangerous.

Concussions are one of the most serious injuries that a player can sustain while playing hockey. Methods are being developed to make the game safer for players, but there is still always going to be the risk of suffering a concussion in the NHL. The NHL is doing the right thing when it comes to trying to reduce the amount of concussions in the game. Senseless, illegal hits need to be taken out of the game, and the NHL is rigorously stepping up their efforts to make sure that message is sent loud and clear. It's now up to the players to abide by those rules.


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