General Managers’ meeting is underway at sunny Boca Raton, Florida. With news lingering of star player Sidney Crosby finally skating after a lengthy period of time, recent incident between Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty, as well as all head shots that have happened this season, the topic of concussions is the top of the list.
The league has done some numbers crunching, resulting in these figures as to the result of concussions:
- 44% from a legal hit
- 26% from an accidental contact
- 17% from an illegal hit
- 8% as a result from fighting
- 27% decline in man games lost due to concussions from last year (17% 2010-2011, 44% 2009-2010)
The numbers are in favor of the NHL, showing that if you group both legal and accidental contact, that 70% of concussions are from what is deemed within the rules. Still though, with the intent to not only clean up the epidemic of concussions in major contact sports, but to increase the safety of the players. To this, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has suggested a 5-step plan to decrease concussions:
1. Brendan Shanahan, former player, current NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Development, work with NHL Players Association on equipment reforms.
2. Revise current concussion protocol. Player suspected of having a concussion during a game must be removed and assessed by a medical doctor, not the team’s athletic therapist. A Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) test must be performed before being cleared to return to play.
3. Repeat offenders on illegal hits to the head will be assessed penalties, as well as the team and/or head coach.
4. Safety engineers will evaluate the playing area in all of the team’s rinks as well as complying with higher safety standards.
5. The formation a a blue ribbon panel to look at the issue of concussions. The panel will be comprised of Brendan Shanahan, recently-retired defenceman Rob Blake, retired player and Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and retired player and Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk.
Although the process of limiting concussions and head shot in the NHL will be lengthy before finding that right mix for both play and the player’s safety, Bettman’s steps are move in the right direction.