x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

NHL: Prevalence of concussions a cultural problem

The league is doing a lot to regulate the number of cases, but it cannot be ridden away with unless players and coaches understand it does not have a place in the sport.

Evgeny Malkin is one of several players on the sidelines of the game after suffering a head concussion. Claus Andersen / Getty Images
Evgeny Malkin is one of several players on the sidelines of the game after suffering a head concussion. Claus Andersen / Getty Images

Have NHL players been suffering concussions more frequently? It is a matter open to debate.

Clearly, more players are missing games because of them, because of increased awareness and new precautionary standards. Over the past two weeks, around a dozen players were out of uniform with reported head injuries.

Players who have missed time this season include Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rick Nash of the New York Rangers, Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes and last year's top rookie, Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche.

Like the National Football League, the NHL has adopted rule changes and protocols. Players who take deliberate shots at opponents' heads are suspended. Players with concussion symptoms must pass a series of tests before returning.

Still, concussions will continue to occur in a sport that includes legal, violent collisions. More, of course, can be done. Some have suggested larger rinks (and more room to manoeuvre) or more protective head gear.

One safety measure seems obvious. Doctors have learnt that symptoms may not occur for hours or days after a blow, and that a second hit to a concussed head is exponentially more damaging. If a player is affected even slightly by a head shot, he should be kept out of a game, regardless of a team's needs or a player's misguided sense of toughness.

That may require an NHL cultural revolution as much as a legislative one.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE