A Concussion Epidemic?! - 12/15/11
This week may have been the worse week for the NHL in terms of Concussions that it has ever experienced. The Hurricanes have lost Jeff Skinner and Joni Pitkanen. The Flyers have lost Chris Pronger and Claude Giroux. The Ottawa Senators have lost Milan Michalek. The Wild have seen the return of power forward Guillaume Latendresse, only to see him leave a game later with Post Concussion Syndromes. The Wild may have lost Pierre-Marc Bouchard to a concussion this week as well, which will be discussed in more depth a little later in this article. But the biggest loss for the NHL this week was that of Sidney Crosby due to Post Concussion Syndromes. Sid’s comeback lasted all of 8 games.
Obviously, this is a huge problem in the NHL. Concussions are one of the biggest problems in sports right now. It seems every week some Quarterback, Wide Receiver, or Running Back is going down with a concussion. Even baseball has seen players affected by concussions. Justin Morneau has been recovering from a concussion for two seasons now. This has been the biggest story in sports in recent memory, and I believe it is most prevalent in hockey. That being said, I feel hockey needs to seriously jump to the head of this. From what I am seeing, the medical part of this seems to be working. I do not feel there are a ton of players getting on the ice who are concussed. Players are being evaluated in a way that is specific to them, and being given the time they need to get back. My concern here is with the cause of these concussions, and how the NHL is punishing hits to the head.
As I mentioned above, the Wild may be without Pierre-Marc Bouchard for a while. On Tuesday, Bouchard was shoved into the boards head first, from behind, by Zack Bogosian. Bouchard was turned towards the boards and bent over trying to get the puck to one of his team mates. Bogosian’s check put Bouchard head first into the section of the boards that meet the glass. I’ve never seen someone bleed so much, so fast. Bouchard has a broken nose, and may have a concussion. Bogosian received a 5:00 major and a game misconduct (mind you, there was 1:06 left in the game when this happened), and was not given any supplemental discipline because Bouchard turned to put himself in that position. In my view, this is why the NHL has a problem with concussions. The NFL has this right. If you lead with your helmet, if you target the head, you are at fault- end of discussion, here is your fine, or your suspension if you are James Harrison. If the NHL and Brendan Shanahan are serious about getting head shots out of the game, and “changing the culture,” there cannot be any gray areas. You hit a guy in the head, you are suspended. That’s how you “change a culture.” That’s how you make this real. Circumstances be damned, if you hit someone in the head, you get the suspension. And I know, sometimes it is unavoidable, and sometimes it isn’t the aggressors fault, but it has to be. In order to get this to change, to get players to consciously think “I can’t do this, this is a dirty hit” you have to have zero tolerance. Until that happens, we are going to continue to see these injuries and these videos from Brendan Shanahan.
Hockey is a physical game. Anyone who has ever watched a game knows that. There is going to be hitting, and there are going to be injuries. These are things that are never going to change. But the NHL, and hockey as a whole, is going to be crippled if the young stars of this game are continuing to be hindered by concussions. Inside of a week the NHL has seen Claude Giroux, the league’s leading scorer, and the game’s most recognized star Sidney Crosby, sidelined for unknown periods of time. This is going to affect every team at some point, if it has not already. This “change of culture” has to happen, and the only way that I feel that this can be achieved is through a zero tolerance policy towards hits to the head.
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