December 24, 2007

The human toll of hockey concussions.:

posted by Drood to hockey at 12:36 AM - 17 comments

Thanks for the read, Drood. There seems to be alot to discuss in this article. Recently, I have heard and read many stories regarding this problem as it applies to former NFL players and there should be no question that hockey retirees suffer similiar repercussions caused by a career of high speed, high contact physical abuse. I was really taken back with Colin Cambell's response(s)to different issues. As long as he remains VP, it doesn't seem the NHL will take any preventative measures. It sure doen't seem like he acknowledges the player claims, calling them "a crock", or a "shallow arguement". Acknowledging the problem(s) would be a good start. I don't buy the "they were milking it" bullshit just to get an extra year of insurance, if anything, it seems the players would fail to report the "invisible injury". I believe some concussions are not preventable. Some occur during a legal play and/or hit. But the continued abuse of an individual's brain needs to be prevented. The only way I see to solve this, unfortunately, is by way of the players first. The players need to acknowledge their injury, not skate, and then they need the league to back them up, not call it "a crock". The speed of the game is as fast as ever and the players are bigger and stronger than ever before. I think the NHL needs to adjust their approach as it applies to both concussions and PCS. Until that happens, we will continue to see the shortened careers of some great players. Shame. Thats an awful story about the Kaminski family, and I praise Megan for her strength to speak out and help her husband in his battle(s). Quick note: I remember watching an old Blues game from the late 80's ( I think). Anyway, helmetless Harold Snepsts fell into the endboards and knocked himself out. He was propped up against the boards like a rag doll. Scared me to death. Sorry I could not find the video.

posted by BoKnows at 06:07 AM on December 24, 2007

Campbell, who acts as the NHL's disciplinarian, cites an interesting discussion with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren after one of numerous transgressions by his players. "I said, `Homer, he was hitting to hurt him,'" recalled Campbell. "He said, `Well, don't we hit to hurt?' I said, `I'm not so sure. That's a good question.'" This is frightening... Two trolls, one manages a "proffessional" hockey team, the other, the league "disciplinarian". If people like these are not removed from positions of authority quickly, hockey wil be gone, and rightfully so. I will NOT offer my sons to this game so long as shitbags like this run the show.

posted by firecop at 07:03 AM on December 24, 2007

Yeah, Campbell comes across as quite the dickhead. If anything, as BoKnows says, the players are masking their concussions because they want to play. Campbell is just doing the legalspeak defence for the league, and, doing it in a particularly cack-handed way. It's actually going to be very interesting to see how Lindros performs in his new position. He must have a chip on his shoulder about this (for himself, and for his brother), and he has never been afraid of management types or the league. He might be a force for the league to reckon with. I never thought I'd say it, but I hope the big lunk does well.

posted by rumple at 04:21 PM on December 24, 2007

How about starting with an automatic 5 minutes, 10-minute misconduct, and ejection, coupled with a 5-game suspension, for any blow, deliberate or accidental. delivered above the shoulders, be it delivered with a stick, elbow, fist, or whatever. One can make an exception for a one-on-one fight. For a second offense within a season, double the suspension. For a third offense, make it a season-long suspension. This might at least eliminate the penchant for head-hunting shown by some in the NHL. Something similar should be done about the slamming of a player's head into the boards. This one would be more difficult, because there are some "divers" in the league who would deliberately bang their heads into the boards to get an opponent off the ice. In any event, the NHL has encouraged the violence in a misguided effort to attract fans. While the speed and contact in a game are indeed a large part of its allure, having the best talent wind up in an extended care facility doesn't seem like the way to continue promoting the game. To Paul Holmgren, I would say that there is a considerable difference between hitting cleanly to hurt and hitting viciously to injure. Neither he nor Campbell seem to understand the distinction.

posted by Howard_T at 04:28 PM on December 24, 2007

I agree with alot of your post, Howard_T, but the guidelines you propose will never happen. Unfortunately, the NHL would hurt even more if Zetterberg or Crosby were the aggressor in an "accidental" offense. Sometimes shit happens. I can't see the NHL suspending a top player for 5+ games. (Especially if the play could be considered a "fluke" or again as, "accidental".) I don't think star treatment is right, but I do scrape the surface of understanding their (NHL) mindset. However, if the player was Chris Simon, a suspension would be eminent. ( I am not at all defending Simon, his current suspension is well deserved.) I was intending on posting my own version of your penalty breakdown, but honestly, I don't have any ideas that could stand on two feet. Which is what could happen to some players if something doesn't change. "You hate to say it, but eventually there's going to be a fatality in this game," said former NHLer Jeff Beukeboom, whose career ended because of post-concussion symptoms. I do hate to say it but I agree with this statement. Obviously hockey fans came close to this happening just this season. Even regarding the fans safety during games, it did take a fatality. After this incident, nets were installed around the end boards in every NHL facility. (Which is common treatment among youth hockey rinks in my area.) Waiting for something to happen seems to be the wrong approach for the NHL. This sounds like a job, not Superman, but the NHL Executive VP and Director of Operations.

posted by BoKnows at 02:28 AM on December 26, 2007

Unfortunately, the NHL would hurt even more if Zetterberg or Crosby were the aggressor in an "accidental" offense. What I propose would let a first offender off relatively lightly, with only a 5-game suspension. A player of Crosby or Zetterburg's skill level is not likely to go head-hunting in the first place, so the likelihood of one of the superstars picking up a second offense during the season is minimal. It is the habitual offender that I am trying to eliminate. Included in this category are those who are careless with their sticks or elbows, or who just won't let up when an opponent is in a dangerous position. After a few are suspended, the rest of the league would take a bit more notice. To counter your valid argument about a Crosby or Zetterburg being suspended, how about the very real possibility of one of them being out for a major portion of the season with a concussion from a marginal hit, a la Patrice Bergeron?

posted by Howard_T at 01:47 PM on December 26, 2007

Right-o Howard_T. Yours is as valid as mine. No doubt the league would hurt either way. Here's an idea. These are sensors applied like sticker. They could be put on to each players helmets. They could be calibrated to break at say, 100 g's. If the player sustains this impact the sensor would alert the officials, and the player must be removed from the game for medical evaluation. Following would be a 3-5 day mandatory "sit-out" period. Doesn't matter who it is. The officials can still make a call on the play regarding any offender, then the league can review the play and apply any suspension if needed. At least it could help determine the severity of any particular play. Sometimes it isn't as bad as it looks, sometimes it is worse. The shock sticker would make that decision and prevent the players from hiding an injury. As far as penalization, if anything helps reduce the head-hunting, I most likely would latch on to that solution.

posted by BoKnows at 02:51 PM on December 26, 2007

Bo, I'm familiar with the sensors you linked, since we have used them in vibration testing of some of the systems we make. The problem is that they tend to work well in only one axis, so multiple sensors would be required per helmet. Also, I would suggest that 100-gs is a bit high. An airline passenger seat has only to withstand a 9-g impact. 100-gs would produce a major "ouchie".

posted by Howard_T at 03:30 PM on December 26, 2007

Gotcha, I used 100-gs only because of its mention in the article. Maybe a "sensor" of sorts could be connected to the padding on the inside of a players helmet, ( I'm assuming the"air style" protection is 1 interconnected piece), causing an alert if the compression of the padding exceeds a designated impact force. Kind of like a regulator used with air compressors. I realize this does not solve the problem, but the technology seems fairly inexpensive vs. the medical costs that could be incurred after repeated trauma.

posted by BoKnows at 03:41 PM on December 26, 2007

I'd say it's pretty impressive that you two have probably gotten farther mapping out a decent policy for handling possible concussions in two days than the NHL has in 10 years. Keep it up, and I'll mention this to my limited contacts in the game and where the genesis of this idea can be found.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:44 PM on December 26, 2007

Thanks, Fraze. Bo's idea of sensors to measure the possible severity of a hit has a great deal of merit. It is also applicable to other contact sports, such as football, lacrosse, and the like. What I would propose is some sort of Draconian measure to rid the league of those who are either deliberate in their intent to injure opponents or too careless in their play to avoid injury to others. One could almost argue that the use of helmets has caused an increase in head injuries. If I'm not mistaken, the helmet was adopted to reduce the probability of injury by being struck by a puck or banging one's head on the ice after a fall. Back in the pre-helmet league, there seemed to be an unwritten code that you did not go for the head lest your own brain bucket become a target. The thinking today seems to be that since there is some protection on the head, the head is a legitimate target. Hockey helmets are not sufficient to withstand the blows that are now routinely dealt. I don't think that decent hockey could be played by anyone wearing something akin to a football helmet, but that's what it might take. Are there any other ideas out there? I'd certainly like to hear them.

posted by Howard_T at 02:55 PM on December 27, 2007

Back in the pre-helmet league, Actually, some players did wear a type of helmet. I don't think that decent hockey could be played by anyone wearing something akin to a football helmet, but that's what it might take Maybe, Howard_T, but all that would have to change would be the interior of a helmet. The top equipment companies still seem to use the same design in their helmets since they were introduced. I have an 15 year old CCM hemet that I used in recreation play, it was the newest model when I bought it. On the inside, yep, a molded foam insert, same as now. I don't have specifics and I'm sure the "foam" has improved over time, it's just not very evident. The biggest change in hockey headwear has been the goalie helmet, deservedly so. And believe it or not, there is new technology for ice skates that could give players even more speed. It is a heating element connected to the blade, that reduces the friction needed to gather speed. So the NHL is allowing the game to get faster, but not much safer. They seem to focus on the improved stamina these skates would give to the players, but stamina doesn't matter if your brain is pinballing around in your skull. How about G Jacques Plante's donning of a helmet. He designed his own mask after he shattered his nose and had endured more than 200 stitches in his face. He was going to remove the helmet after his injuries healed, but found the added protection gave him the ability to play a more aggresive and mobile style. After first being criticized for the change, other players even had Plante make them masks too. That was almost 50 years ago and now I see goalies takin slapshots off the noggin with very little reaction. It doesn't even mess up the airbrush job. An improved level of safety could be adopted by all levels of hockey - from Mite to the NHL.

posted by BoKnows at 04:54 PM on December 27, 2007

The equipment is too good. These guys are like wrecking balls out there. Fearless. It doesn't protect them against hits. It provides them the protection to hit as hard as they can. It's akin to boxing vs. MMA - the MMA guys wear little gloves, so their hands will still hurt like hell if the punch as hard as they can everytime. Consequently, they don't. Big 12 ounce boxing gloves mean you can pummel with little regard for your own pain. And, of course, way more people die boxing.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 05:54 PM on December 27, 2007

Have you ever laced them up, Weedy? NHL Players wear very little protection on their chest and back, nothing close to football players. NHL players also have little or no protection on the back of their legs. And little in the abdomen. The skates are still basically just leather with a little form fit padding on the inside, so getting hit in the skate/ankle/heel/laces hurts like a bitch. Most of the protection is geared towards blocking shots or falling down: shins, knees, thighs, hands, elbows and shoulders. A hockey helmet has less protection than its baseball and football counterparts. Some players even choose to wear less equipment because of comfort issues or restriction in their range of motion. So, the idea that players could be considered wrecking balls is not because of their equipment, it's because of their speed. And the speed or "G" force is what is causing the head injuries.

posted by BoKnows at 07:51 PM on December 27, 2007

Yep - and check out them shoulder and elbow pads. Light as a feather and hard as rocks. They can do serious damage. Shit is armour. Nobody is hitting anyone with their chest or abdomen. Shoulder pads and elbow pads have nothing to do with blocking shots.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:38 PM on December 27, 2007

Not all of it is armour, Weedy. You have to admit the hockey shoulder pads are not at all the bulk and density as football shoulder pads. They are half the size. Factor in players skating up to 30 mph also wearing sub-standard head protection and you'll get head injury. You're half right about the elbow pads, I too have seen some models that I wouldn't want in my chin, but they can be very restrictive. I would venture to say half of the NHL players would sacrifice elbow protection for mobility. I think you bring up a good point, though - That the technology and standards of helmet construction is lagging behind other forms of safety equipment.

posted by BoKnows at 11:48 PM on December 27, 2007

weedie i think your right on. if the players wore shoulder pads like Brennin Shannahan you wouldn't see as many lights out checks. Don't get me wrong, i love a good check as the next, but i don't like players taken out on a strecher.. looks like 2 small cups on his shoulders tied together with strings Problelm with the helmets is 3 things. 1 it has to look good. ( remember the jofa helmet) to it has to feel good and 3 it has to be light. PS. The lack of coverage for the World Jr's SUCKS in the US........

posted by rstack2 at 06:42 AM on December 30, 2007

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