The Epidemic of Concussions in Professional Hockey

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  • Topic: Ice hockey, National Hockey League, Concussion
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  • Published : October 2, 2012
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The Epidemic of Concussions in Professional Hockey
Anthony Leotta
DeVry University

Why is there an epidemic of concussions in the Professional Hockey? (National Hockey League) What is being done within the sport to minimize head injuries? The current epidemic in professional hockey is evidence that hockey needs better prevention in addition to better treatment. Fallen Stars

Pittsburgh Penguins Center Sidney Crosby has been at the center of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) concussion debate. He has missed 41 games (basically half the 2011-2012 season) due to concussion issues. At 24 years old with such acumen for the game, he is without a doubt the face of professional hockey. Another high profile example is Philadelphia Flyer Defenceman Chris Pronger who has played just 13 games this season for the Flyers. During a game in late October Pronger was struck with a stick in the eye. No penalty was called on the play. He missed games until Nov. 9. He was removed from the lineup just five games later with concussion-like symptoms. He missed the rest of the regular season and the entire playoffs which start this week. The examples here are only two only the many players who are currently dealing with concussions, yet these two players have brought the issue to the forefront which has forced head injuries to be taken more seriously. (Illustration 1: Chris Pronger takes a stick to the face.)

The Professional Hockey Mindset
Current National Hockey League Commissioner, Gary Bettman has asked many inquiring questions to the governing body of the league along with the general managers of all thirty teams on how to handle this delicate issue. Hockey is a collision sport, not just a contact sport. Rough contact is an essential part of the game. Hockey is also an extremely fast game. During the General Manager meetings in March of 2011 Bettman was quoted, “A full 14 percent of N.H.L. concussions are caused by “legal head shots”; i.e., north-south hits to the head that did not specifically target the head.” (Klein, 2011) With that being said it raises the question, “Should the N.H.L continue to declare legal the kind of check (hit) that causes one-seventh of the league’s head trauma?” Sidney Crosby’s boss Pittsburgh Penguins G.M. Ray Shero weighed in on the subject saying, “If other leagues have outlawed all head contact — including the N.C.A.A., I.I.H.F. and O.H.L., which supply 75 percent of all N.H.L. players, why can’t the National Hockey League ban such hits too? I go to college games,” Shero said. “I don’t go to a college game and say, hey, there’s not enough hitting.” (Klein, 2011) Bettman continued his dialogue, “The rise in reported concussion this year is mainly due to “accidental collisions” rather than targeted or blindside hits to the head. 44 percent of the roughly 80 reported concussions this season came from “legal hits — body hits, principally. Most of those legal hits are not to the head. They’re body checks (hits) were either from the whiplash or secondary contact with the ice or the boards or the glass, the concussions are caused. Legal head shots is a small piece of the equation.” (Klein, 2011) N.H.L. officials later confirmed that although “legal head shots” are a minority of the legal checks that caused concussions, they account for a full 14 percent of concussions this season — a rate that translates to roughly 11 concussions out of 80.

Concussion Overview
WebMD defines a concussion as: “A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. Although there may be cuts or bruises on the head or face, there may be no other visible signs of a brain injury.” (Healthwise, 2010) So what causes a concussion to occur? The brain is a soft organ which is surrounded by spinal fluid and protected the skull. Normally, the fluid around your brain acts as a cushion or shock...
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