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Concussion Debate


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http://www.csnphilly.com/12/21/11/CSN-Roundtable-Examining-the-concussion-/v11_package_landing_blog.html?blockID=616566&feedID=10698

From Comcast SportsNet

There is no more polarizing issue in hockey right now than concussions and player safety. Everyone has their own theory for why the number of recent head injuries is so high. Some think the recent spike in concussions is a real problem, while others believe it to be the result of over-awareness. Here's how our Comcast SportsNet NHL Insiders see it:

Question #1: Are we seeing a concussion crisis due to the evolution of the game or is this something that went largely ignored in the past?

Kevin Kurz, CSNBayArea.com: There’s little doubt that concussions have been occurring in hockey for decades. Years ago, when a guy woke up the next morning with a headache, he shook it off and likely kept playing and practicing unless he was bedridden. Now, with the knowledge that everyone has as to how concussions can affect you later in life, there are many more precautions taken before getting back on the ice.

Hockey players also have a different mentality than most other professional athletes in other sports. It’s much more likely that a hockey player wouldn’t report to his team manager or trainer he was feeling any ill effects from getting hit, so as not to come off as less “tough” than the guy sitting next to him.

Tracey Myers, CSNChicago.com: I just tackled this one in my story with some of Pronger's former teammates. I think, as far as the past, it's two-fold: I don't know if the medical side truly knew the impact of these things in the past. Obviously medicine has made some tremendous strides with tests, knowledge, etc. The other part of it was the tough-guy mentality besting common sense. Dizziness and prolonged headaches were probably there in the past, too, but were guys who complained about them deemed wimps? Teemu Selanne said something to that effect to me today.

Joe Haggerty, CSNNE.com: The biggest issue is the speed and size of the players, and it’s been that way since the clutching, grabbing and (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) interference was taken out of the game coming out of the lockout. The offense has been pumped up and the pace has quickened to unforeseen levels prior to 2005. It also means big bodies are moving at ridiculously high speeds and colliding with each other at monster-truck force. Just look at the Claude Giroux concussion for the Flyers after he was kneed in the back of the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds. There is no way to “prevent” a hit like that, and it happens because the action is racing at high speeds up and down the ice.

That’s why I think concussions will never truly be cleaned up within the game of hockey.

What’s important is to clean up the premeditated efforts to injure players, and that’s something Brendan Shanahan is doing effectively in my eyes. You prevent the injuries and incidents that can be curbed, and then hope you don’t see a cluster of star players go down as we’ve seen over the last couple of months. It’s undoubtedly a bad stretch for concussions in the game, but I also think it’s something of an outlier event rather than a growing trend.

Tim Panaccio, CSNPhilly.com: If you look at video from 1970 to the present, you can see a gradual progression of faster, stronger players, but also a fundamental change in the game where the hitting picked up. From the mid-to-late 1990s, changes in equipment from soft padding to hard shell protection combined with a new generation of players produced violent collisions, loud noises for television coverage and genuine thrills among fans seated at the boards.

In an interview in the late 1990s, Bob Clarke told me that that modern equipment had turned players into “gladiators” who felt invincible on the ice. Hitting was their focus, not playing the puck.

“I was always taught that the object of the game was to gain possession of the puck,” Clarke said back then. “Now the object seems to be hit the guy as hard as you can. Players aren’t looking make a play with the puck. They want to drive someone through the boards with a check.”

Chuck Gormley, CSNWashington.com: If NHL players were suffering from concussions 20 or 30 years ago, very few of them reported symptoms for fear of ridicule or, worse, losing their jobs. In fact, when asked about the lingering effects of concussions sustained by former Flyers captain Eric Lindros, the club’s former general manager and Hall of Fame player Bob Clarke replied at the time, “I wouldn’t know. I never had a concussion.” Yet ask former Flyers captain Keith Primeau how many concussions he’s had in his lifetime and he’ll tell you, “A hundred? Maybe more.”

That said, the evolution of the game – from the increased size and improved conditioning of players to the virtual elimination of clutching and grabbing – has resulted in more high-speed collisions that increase the risk of concussions.

Question #2: What are the biggest causes of concussions in the game today?

Kurz: The speed of the game is the biggest factor. You cannot overlook the fact that so many of the recent concussions, especially this year, have been the result of accidental collisions. Claude Giroux got kneed by his own winger, while Sidney Crosby’s relapse happened when he crashed into his own teammate. Milan Michalek also ran into a teammate in suffering his concussion. These types of collisions are not going to stop occurring unless you slow the game down, and that’s not anything anyone wants to do.

Myers: Ah, now this is a tough one. It's easy to say the dirty hits, but it isn't just those. Perfectly clean hits cause them, too. I believe Flyers GM Holmgren told Philly media today that it was a stick to the eye that started Pronger's issues? There's the problem: how do you prevent all concussions when so many different things cause them?

Haggerty: The biggest cause of concussions in my opinion is the “incidental contact” collisions caused by the speed of the game. The David Steckel/Sidney Crosby hit is a great example of that. It’s not a Matt Cooke-style elbow to the chops and it’s not the run-of-the-mill boarding call that we’ve all become accustomed to. It’s instead a subtle move of the shoulder or change of direction that then causes a ripple effect of events including potentially devastating injury.

I refer back once again to the Claude Giroux/Wayne Simmonds incident: how on earth do you stop that? Is there really a way to climb inside Steckel’s head and prove he had something sinister in mind when he clipped Crosby? These kinds of plays will always happen in the game of hockey when guys fall into the dreaded “wrong place at the wrong time” situation.

Panaccio: There appears to be a consensus that no one single reason is responsible for the alarming number of head injuries this season.

Most players and general managers feel it’s a combination of several factors. For starters, the evolution of the game from, say, the 1950s to present demonstrates players are bigger, stronger and faster. Year-round training is responsible for that, not to mention the development of the game in the U.S., which has more than 200 players on league rosters.

“The speed of the game – it’s so much faster than when I played,” St. Louis Blues president of hockey operations, John Davidson said. “The equipment is so hard and the players don’t respect each other as much as before.”

Gormley: As we’ve seen in recent weeks there is no common thread connecting one concussion to another.

Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was struck in the eye by an opponent’s stick. Flyers center Claude Giroux was kneed in the head by his own teammate. Capitals winger Jay Beagle was knocked out in a fight with Penguins winger Arron Asham. And Penguins center Sidney Crosby collided, seemingly innocently, with Bruins forward David Krejci.

Question #3: What remedies do you suggest to curtail the number of concussions?

Kurz: You could say that putting the red line back in would help, but that’s not necessarily the case. I spoke with Sharks winger Ryane Clowe about that idea, and he said that putting the red line back would just make guys carry the puck into the neutral zone more often, where they would be subject to getting hit. As it is now, players can simply fire the puck from their own zone and look for a deflection into the offensive zone before they go in hard on the forecheck.

Clowe did say that he wouldn’t mind seeing the size of the equipment reduced, though – specifically the shoulder and elbow pad caps.

Myers: I think you start with the blatant dirty hits. They're there, they're easily recognized and policed. After that, you enter murky territory. Although, would it hurt to have a little padding in those helmets?! We've all seen them hanging in lockers; doesn't look like there's much protection there.

Haggerty: The two best things we can do to reduce the number of concussions is to A) slap the NHL cheap shot artists and elbow-throwers with impunity when it comes to suspensions and removing money from their wallets. That’s the language that players understand. And B) pare down some of the ridiculous suits of armor that players don on a nightly basis. Some of the willingness by players to become lethal, high-speed bumper cars out on the ice is due to their own equipment deadening the impact and potential injury for the attacker. If shoulder and elbow pads were made smaller, then some of the torque on the hits can be reduced. Players won’t be quite as fearless anymore throwing out potentially injurious checks if they can be stung by them as well.

Panaccio: Far too many of the concussions we’re seeing today have their roots in dirty, illegal head shots, which the NHL only began to outlaw in earnest with rules changes a year ago.

“I think players respected each other more [in the past],” Flyers chairman Ed Snider recently said. “They grow up now in junior with these masks and so forth and hit up high. It’s a different game. Obviously, it’s a very serious problem.”

Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli agreed.

“It seemed the hitting really picked up from the mid-to-late 1990s and right on through,” Chiarelli said. “We’re already working on redesigning the pads, making them softer and safer. The GMs are supporting that.”

Gormley: I personally feel it all starts with placing restrictions on equipment. First, visors should become mandatory for all players, which should virtually eliminate eye injuries. Secondly, the NHL needs to work with equipment manufacturers to develop softer elbow and shoulder pads by removing the hard capping that can cause injury.

Another remedy is actually under way and that’s the earlier detection and immediate treatment of concussions. For years hockey players have been too tough for their own good, returning too quickly after getting their “bells rung.” This starts with coaches and general managers being less “old-school” and more proactive when it comes to shutting down players as soon as concussion symptoms are reported.

There's a special on concussions on VS @ 6:30pm tonight.

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helmets were mentioned in there a couple times. it occures to me that players are still using the same old Cooper sk2000 helmet that i wore in 1988. it's been rebranded as bauer, and the airholes have been moved around, but it's the same damn helmet. surely we are able to design something better?

also, i wouldn't be real upset if 10 minute misconducts were handed out for players with chin straps hanging 4 inches below their chins.

what's the point of voracek even having a chin strap here?

2726125dc5223d901a362734500a3d1e-getty-135860800.jpg

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I think new helmets will have minor impact. Its all about the speed and players who arnt preperad for the hit. You cant prevent a concussion with a helmet becouse it doesnt stop the head from moving, its the motion that makes the concussion becouse the brain moves inside.

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right, but padding slows the acceleration/deceleration from said impact. helmet his the glass and the padding compresses, making things at least a little more gentle. the better the padding, the greater the effect. there are limits to how much it can help, but it has to be possible to do better than 1985 helmet technology.

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@aziz

I agree but I saw on NHL live or the VS postgame show that players go for the looks instead of the better helmet. They can have the safest helmet in the world but it doesn't matter if they don't wear it. As for the League to mandate that they wear that with visors, I'm not too sure if they can regarding the Players Association.

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right, but padding slows the acceleration/deceleration from said impact. helmet his the glass and the padding compresses, making things at least a little more gentle. the better the padding, the greater the effect. there are limits to how much it can help, but it has to be possible to do better than 1985 helmet technology.

I'll agree with that but it is only limited to situations where the head making contact with something at the point of the helmet becomes a problem. A lot of the lateral hits, coming from the blind side and what not knock these guys out cold and it has nothing to do with helmets. A shoulder to the face/ jaw or even elbow to the face/jaw coming across from the side is more like a boxer getting caught on the chin with a good shot. Those guys don't have hard plastic for gloves but you can see how a guy's head getting rocked from one side to the other is more than enough to knock him out and nothing short of a helmet that is connected to the shoulders a a la the Hans device seen in racing will stop that. I think softening the pads will work more to discourage the player looking to deliver the hit since he himself stands a greater chance and hurting himself than it is the softening of the pads will keep the player getting hit safer. I'm not saying the softer pads WON'T help the player getting hit but soft pads or not, you get someone coming at a good clip towards another player from the side and he catches him towards the front of the head near the neck/jaw area, he's getting knocked out.

Edited by Spinorama
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http://www.themessierproject.com/the-helmet.html

I posted this in the Giroux concussion thread

Mark Messier is driving development of helmets that help abate the force of the initial impact but greatly reduce the 2nd and 3rd impacts also , so the player gets checked, the padding and mouth piece help with that shot, the checked player then goes into the boards for a secondary impact, this helmet is supposed to increase protection for that impact by up to 120 % compared with the aziz's old cooper helmet... plus i think this helmet looks pretty cool... the technology is out there, people just need to be made aware.

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