Strict rules helping to reduce NHL head trauma

In our last post we discussed concussions and the National Football League. In this post we change gears a bit to write about such brain injuries in the National Hockey League.

Following more severe punishments and better enforcement for hits to the head, the NHL has announced that concussions have dramatically decreased in the beginning of the new season. The NHL announced the news at the first general manager meeting of the season, saying that concussions have decreased 50 to 60 percent from the same period in the previous season.

The NHL has implemented the rules after the relationship between head trauma and long term-brain injury has become increasingly well known. Penguins’ player Sidney Crosby has been unable to play for nearly a year due to concussion symptoms from which he is still recovering.

The NHL’s vice-president of player safety and former player, Brendan Shanahan, who took on the position this season, has already suspended over 12 players, even issuing a 12-game ban to one player for striking another in the head. Since taking over as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, Shanahan has implemented a low-tolerance policy for dangerous hits to the head, a stance that appears to have been effective.

Shanahan also stressed that targeting goalies would not be tolerated, although the Sabres were upset after a Bruins player left their goalie with a concussion but received no suspension. The Bruins player defended himself, saying that the charge was not intentional and that he could not avoid a collision by the time he saw the goalie. Still, Shanahan addressed the matter at the manager meeting, saying that players must recognize that goalies are not fair game and that charging goalies is not an acceptable tactic in the eyes of the NHL.

Source: Reuters, “Concussions down as tougher penalties curb hits to head,” Steve Keating, Nov. 15, 2011