Many people in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country were thrilled to know that one of hockey’s greatest would be returning to the ice this week. After suffering from consecutive concussions last season and another blow to the head earlier this season, Sidney Crosby will lace up his skates tonight as the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the New York Rangers.
Crosby’s situation has brought a lot of attention to the issue of traumatic brain injuries within professional hockey, and whether or not those in charge are doing enough to protect the athletes. As we now know, people with prior concussions are at greater risk of permanent brain damage with each additional blow to the head.
The commissioner and the general managers of the 30 NHL teams reportedly met this week to address the issue. They discussed how the number of concussions had not slowed down this year, despite the league implementing tougher penalties for shots to the head.
However, they did say that new statistics showing that more players are sitting out of games with concussions are a good thing, meaning that the injuries are being taken more seriously. Players are also being taken out of the game earlier and staying out longer following concussions, they said.
The general managers reportedly considered various rule changes over the week in effort to help reduce concussions, including reinstating the center red line, which would make passing across two lines illegal, and requiring shoulder pads to be made of softer materials. It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes come.
As we have written about in the past, more than 100 former professional football players who suffer from concussion-related brain injuries are suing the National Football League, alleging that the organization knew the dangers of concussions but failed to protect the players. It is certainly possible that a lawsuit like this could be pursued by NHL players with brain injuries.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Crosby’s return highlights head-injury issue,” Bill Mann, March 15, 2012