The NHL has seen an increase in concussions over the years. That is more due to the fact that the NHL has implemented concussion protocols, and athletic trainers are actually looking out for more minor signs to catch them early on before they compound.
To put it simply, the number of concussions occurring is still the same as it used to be, we just are more aware of them now due to an increase of attention paid to concussions.
In 2016, the NHL introduced a new concussion protocol that implemented a “spotter” who is trained to spot visible signs of concussions immediately after a player gets hit.
A study done in April of 2017 by the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that it was easier to predict a concussion if the player showed visible signs such as loss of consciousness, motor in-coordination or vacant look. It was harder to predict concussions when visual signs such as being slow to get up or clutching their head were exhibited.
I believe the biggest goal for these “spotters” will be to pull players from a game before they exacerbate their concussion. Like many athletes, NHL players have the tendency to try and play through the pain.
Playing through broken bones, torn ligaments and stitched up wounds isn’t ideal, nor is it healthy. Playing through concussions can have lifelong consequences. If the symptoms aren’t identified immediately after a player is hit, they will likely get up and keep playing.
Andrew Shaw of the Montreal Canadiens knows this all too well. “If there’s something wrong, right away you have to speak up and say something,” said Shaw in an interview with Sportsnet.
He had collided with Brady Skjei of the New York Rangers in a playoff game during the 2016-17 season. Instead of notifying the training staff, he played on. After subsequent hits, he was sidelined during Game 6 of the series, and the symptoms affected him until mid-July.
Aside from being sidelined, Shaw suffered from mood swings, anxiety and severe depression. Remember the “spotters” who were supposed to monitor these things? They are virtually useless when players do not exhibit any visual signs, much like Shaw in the video below. (Video from Sportsnet)
Shaw takes the hit right to the ear, so him wincing in pain is to be expected. However, he does not seem to be dazed or rattled by the hit.
I spoke to Chris Ritter who is a Sports Medicine Professional at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. Ritter spent a season working with the Anaheim Ducks as an intern athletic trainer.
“The general culture of contact sports has proven that being ‘tough’ means hiding or denying injury, especially when it comes to concussions. Now we are in a transition period, when the younger generations are fighting through the old mentality and learning that reporting injuries, especially concussions, is a good thing.”-Chris Ritter, Cal Poly athletic trainer and former intern athletic trainer for the Anaheim Ducks
Now only time will tell as the younger generations come up and take over the big leagues.
Give The People What they want
Many fans are also calling for improvements to the concussion protocol.
Is that commercial the NHL's concussion protocol?
Team dr: Spell your last name.
Player: C R O S P Y
Team Dr: Close enough. He's good
— Cupcake Crusher (@iTz_Dizzle) May 15, 2017
imagine if the nhl focused on concussion protocol and safety of both fans and players rather than faceoff violations. Imagine.
— a.j. (@nhlbarrie) September 19, 2017
The NHL has made moves to try and help with concussion prevention, but it isn’t enough. It’s hard to say what could be done to prevent compound concussions, but it is clear that visual signs are simply not enough to go by.
Featured image from The Globe and Mail
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