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Are Concussions in Hockey Preventable?

Updated on July 5, 2013

Concussions in the NHL

Are concussions becoming a problem in the NHL? Ask any avid hockey fan, and the answer will be a resounding, YES!

Each time a star goes down, or suffers from any kind of a hit in open ice, the fear of a head injury lingers. Any time a player heads for the corner to retrieve the puck, the fear is there. It's becoming an epidemic, and no one seems to have the answers.

NHL Concussion Issues

In a study by Science Daily, they've noted that more and more time is being lost due to concussion issues. It's a positive effort that the league and its teams are taking the issues seriously, and keeping players out of the lineup longer to allow for proper healing. It's also given rise to the term post-concussion symptoms, which has become a major buzz-word of late.

Post-concussion symptoms include headaches, low energy or fatigue, memory loss, and abnormal neurological exams. Teams are becoming more prepared, and the NHL is a flag ship for handling head injuries with caution. In a game, anytime it's believe a player may have sustained a head injury, they are pulled aside and placed into a quiet room for a set amount of time to decompress. After the allotted time, their condition is assessed. Often, team trainers don't find anything wrong just after the injury. It's only after a day or two that the symptoms surface, so most teams have been erring on the side of caution.

What the NHL Has Done, So Far

Beginning this season, the league has announced a new position called the Senior Vice President in Charge of Player Safety, and it's currently held by retired forward Brendan Shanahan, who is a perfect person for the job. He played the game on the edge, but always had a certain class about him. He brings a credibility to the job. The position requires him to hand out punishment, in the way of suspensions and fines, to players who play recklessly, and endanger other players in ways that could cause head injuries.

What This Means for Hockey

The truth is, this is a great step towards helping player safety, but as an avid hockey fan myself, not one week has passed this season without seeing another penalty assessed by Shanahan. So, justice is clearly being doled out, but it doesn't seem to be a deterrent. It also doesn't address the many injuries to players off of completely legal plays, such as the one that sidelined Pittsburgh Penguin star Sidney Crosby.

Crosby was turning up ice, during last season's Winter Classic, and was involved in a collision with David Steckel of the Washington Capitals. The Penguin's star finally returned to his team, nearly one full year from the injury, only to leave the very next game with post-concussion symptoms.

This is a detriment to the popularity of the game of hockey. Many fans attend games to see the dazzling moves that stars like Crosby can offer. They expect to be entertained by big named players, and are typically unhappy to find them scratched for a night.

The Philadelphia Flyers are a team that's suffered from concussion related problems for years. In 1998, Flyers' star Eric Lindros suffered a debilitating head injury, the result of an open ice hit by Pittsburgh's Darius Kasparaitis. Lindros was never the same.

And in this year, the Flyers have lost their captain Chris Pronger, top prospect Brayden Schenn, and leading scorer Claude Giroux, all to concussions.

It's not just one team, however, as every team in the NHL has had some issue related to concussions. Each one has screamed for a solution. Many people have expressed the need to change the way the league operates, but none want to step forward to make the change.

What the NHL Needs to Do:

1. Fighting

Aside from major league lacrosse, ice hockey is the only sport that allows fighting, with the penalty being a five-minute major. It's time for hockey to join the civilized culture. Fighting in hockey should be outlawed. Three NHL enforcers died this past summer, and many believe the chief cause was repeated blows to the head. Fighting should be removed from the sport.

2. Equipment

If the league would take a close look at the equipment players are currently wearing, they would note some anomalies. Little in the way of hockey equipment has changed since ten-to-twenty years ago. The only thing that's really changed is size. Everything is bigger. Shoulder pads, shin guards, elbow pads and gloves have all gotten bigger. One thing that stands out, is the helmets have remained virtually the same. Lacrosse players wear full cages across their entire faces, and the helmets are certainly more preventative of head injuries, as are the helmets in football. Hockey helmets need to be intensified, and other pads need to be looked at to be reduced.

3. Rink Size

The players today are much bigger and faster than they were some years ago. Just watch footage of a game from the 80s or 90s, and it's plain to see, there's not much room out there. It's time to increase the rink sizes to Olympic sized rinks. Current NHL rinks are 200 feet by 85 feet, while Olympic size rinks are 210 feet by 98 feet, which would offer a little more space to maneuver.

4. The Boards

One of the highlights of any hockey game is seeing your favorite defenseman slam an opposing forward into the boards. This is an exciting part of the game, and shouldn't be removed, but possible a re-engineering of the boards is in order. Players standing four-to-eight feet from the boards, who are hit, are slammed into unforgiving boards that have no give, and it usually leads to an injury. Last season, Flyer defenseman Oskars Bartulis stood defending the far goal post in a game against the Pheonix Coyotes, when Coyotes' forward Scottie Upshall hit Bartulis shoulder to shoulder, sending him careening into the boards out of control. The defenseman left the game with a shoulder injury, ending his season.

The boards are a tougher issue, and some engineers should be called upon to come up with a plan to soften them for colliding players, but that would go a long way towards player safety.


The truth is, there's no way to eliminate injuries from the fast paced game of hockey, but a few measures can return the stars to the ice, and keep the momentum of the game going.

Take the Poll!

What do you think is the best way to reduce concussions in hockey?

See results


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    • parentsreview profile image

      parentsreview 6 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

      You said it,, it is incredible the level of disrespect on the ice this season. I've never seen it so bad. I'm looking forward to when the hockey actually starts. This can't be good for the game.

    • profile image 6 years ago from Vancouver / Bangkok

      Wow .. they are running wild in the playoffs this year, at the rate they are going, there won't be any players left to play in the finals. Shanahan has dropped the ball big time. Look at all the injuries and cheap shots .. and the first round isn't even over yet? Yikes!

    • parentsreview profile image

      parentsreview 6 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

      @Barbsbitsnpieces Absolutely, great comment. It has to begin at the lower levels. Thanks for the comment.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 6 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @parentsreview...Good work on this Hub!

      With the NFL getting on board about the danger of concussions, hockey should be following suit. Fighting needs to be seriously punished. Get in their pocketbooks. That usually gets the best corrective results. Fighting should not be taught in the lower levels of the sport, nor accepted in the highest level. It needs to be banned. No other sport accepts it.

    • parentsreview profile image

      parentsreview 6 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

      Totally agree with you Duncs87. In some ways you're preaching to the choir. My suggestions come, because I don't think the NHL has kept up with the times. Head injuries have been increasing each year. Most of it is better diagnosis, but much of it is because players are so much bigger and faster. There's no easy way to say it, but it seems to me the league is in fire fighting mode over stars going down due to head injuries.

      To prove my point, go out to right now and check out the headlines. I don't even have to look, but I will.

      There it is, number two in the list, "Sens' Turris has disciplinary hearing Sun." Why don't we check again tomorrow and see if there are any others. I'd say it's about 50/50 that another player will be hearing from Shanahan. It's become a huge distraction to the league, and it doesn't seem to be slowing.

      I realize it's not really cost effective to drastically change the rink for the size and boards, but what's it costing the league to have Crosby sitting out this many games? How many more tickets, jerseys, posters, or whatever would be sold if he was in the lineup. How important is it to the league for his career to continue, and how important is it to protect the next big star.

      As far as fighting leaving the NHL, it's already happening. It's only a matter of time. With the rule changes, fighters are non-issues in the games anymore. They're being replaced by the pests, who can do their jobs without fighting. Rick Tocchet, a guy who had plenty of fights in his career, recently suggested that teams might start keeping a shootout specialist in the lineup, rather than a fighter.

      I know many fans look forward to the fights, but think about all the parents who are forbidding their children from watching hockey, so they don't pick up fighting. I'm not sure what that ratio would be, but that's a whole generation of hockey fans that might never be. Also, what about football? How come there's no fighting in football? It's just as rough, possibly even rougher, and there's no fighting.

      Now I know there are holes in my arguments, and head injuries will happen regardless of what anyone does. But I'd just like to see steps taken that would improve the safety of the game, and preserve the physicality, not just at the NHL level, but for kids too.

      Again, Duncs87, you're points valid, and well worth the thought.

    • parentsreview profile image

      parentsreview 6 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

      Absolutely right. Severe punishments are a good start, but so far from this season, it doesn't seem to be that much of a deterrent. Players still need to skate through their checks no matter where they are on the ice. Occasionally I see a guy slow up to prevent an injury close to the boards, but very often players skate right through. And many of these injuries are happening on common plays that aren't going to be penalized.

      No hockey fan wants to see the hard hitting taken out of the game, but seeing stars drop with head injuries on a weekly basis isn't good for the game either.

      Your point is absolutely valid, and the consequences need to be severe enough to get the point across. Great comment!

    • profile image

      Duncs87 6 years ago

      #1 Do you know how expensive it would be to increase the size of all the NHL rinks? It can't be done. Also with the softening of the boards, it's not an easy thing to do. Besides when would they have the time to do that? Teams are skating on the rinks even in off season.

      #2 You can't eliminate fighting in hockey, I'm sorry. Would you just stand around and watch if your oponent was being stupid. Or if they were pushing around your goalie are you just going to let him get away with that?

      This is just my opinion, I don't have as much expirience as I'm sure you do and I know that. To put you in perspective I wouldn't be old enough to be able to even play in the NHL.

      I agree with your idea of improving the helmets, and people are working on doing just that.

      I don't believe that head injuries will really be gone from the NHL completely, I mean sometimes they're just hits that went wrong.

    • profile image

      Duncs87 6 years ago

      The punishment. It's good they added the four minute penalty but why not take it farther, make it clear that what they're doing is dangerous and they have to face the consequences.

    • SonQuioey10 profile image

      Toni Northern 6 years ago from Williamston NC

      You're correct, absolutely right in your opinion about fighting.

      It's really dangerous and damaging for them. I think that the preservation of human life is all too important, and if it means taking out fighting then so be it.

      A good game and sportsmanship should be the ultimate draw to the sport anyway.

    • parentsreview profile image

      parentsreview 6 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

      @SonQuioey10 Great comments, and you're absolutely right. Fighting is a big draw for fans, not to mention me. The fights are an exciting part of the game, but this past summer really opened my eyes to the kind of lives NHL enforcers live. I had never thought about it before, but the guys who's careers depend upon taking blows to the head has to be taken more seriously.

      I'm certainly not suggesting that fighting be banned from hockey from this day forward. I believe, out of necessity, it will slowing dwindle from the game. In fact, I think it already has, and eventually, it will probably disappear completely, much like players without helmets.

      Thanks for the comment, you made a lot of good points!

    • SonQuioey10 profile image

      Toni Northern 6 years ago from Williamston NC

      Love your hub. I voted they should create better helmets but I forgot that they can be punched off and often times are taken off.

      Head injuries can lead to a lot of problems, believe me I know, but if they take out fighting, the nhl might suffer because of that excitement, and that unseen element that bites everyone, change. The older generations might not like the change.

      So I really vote that they should do all of the things mentioned in your poll, except take out fighting.

    • parentsreview profile image

      parentsreview 6 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

      Great points Beth! The main thing is, head injuries are being diagnosed with better frequency and accuracy. That's one thing that has drastically improved. Now it's a matter of prevention. Thanks for the comment!

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 6 years ago from Canada

      Concussions and head injuries appear to be more common than in the past. Why? Because we, the public in general, trainers, professionals and sports players are more informed of the symptoms of head injuries. As a result, concussions and head injuries are now reported whereas in the past, the symptoms may not have been recognized thereby the injury is overlooked and not reported.

      Without a doubt, physical sports such as ice hockey, skiing and boxing, are prone to head injuries. As you said, equipment is one solution.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 6 years ago

      Got it Thanks!!

    • parentsreview profile image

      parentsreview 6 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

      Kelley, I can help you there. It's not difficult, and welcome to hubpages.

      When you're looking at your profile, click "my account".

      When you're there, find the tab that says, "Earnings" and click it

      Under Earnings, you should see a number of programs for earning, and one should be Amazon.

      I can't remember what the button to it's left says, but you'll have to click it and apply for an Amazon account first. They'll ask you for a number of things on their end, and the whole process will take about a week for them to complete.

      After Amazon has completed creating your account, you'll get an ID Number with them that starts with "hubp"

      You don't have to worry about it, just know that it's there.

      Then, when you are creating your hubs, while you're editing, there will be a box at the upper right hand corner with the title, "Add More Capsules." One of the options under it will be Amazon. Click it.

      Then find the Amazon capsule that was placed in your article and move it to the spot you want it, and then edit it.

      When editing it, you will be given the option to add URLs to items that are sold on Amazon.

      After you've selected all the items you want, just publish normally, and you'll be all set.

      Good luck!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 6 years ago

      How did you get the Amazon content on your page? I want to add books I recommend to my hubb. How do you do this? I'm brand new to hugpages and just looking for feedback. Thanks

    • profile image 6 years ago from Vancouver / Bangkok

      It is all a bunch of hogwash.. when I was a kid, they didn't even wear helmets.. not even the goalies!