Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The NHL, head shots and concussions in hockey
As many of you know, there's been a vigorous debate in both the NHL and the NFL over the past year about concussions and what is and isn't a legal hit.
The NHL allows certain types of hits to the head (straight ahead checks in which the head is stricken), having recently outlawed blind side hits.
My own view is that the NHL is only half serious about protecting its players. The league knows of its rather low standing among pro sports leagues (this is a sport that can't even get its games on ESPN, home of televised poker) and figures that removing fighting or the heaviest hits would only lose fans. The above screen grab of the NHL home page earlier this week illustrates the point -- big hits equals fans in the eyes of the NHL.
As I've written before, part of the fun of hockey is the physical contact. But the fact that the NHL tolerates it in such extreme forms -- head shots and fighting -- tells me that those who run hockey's most visible league in North America also have a sad lack of confidence in the appeal of their own sport.
As the New York Times reported recently, the Mayo Clinic has called on the NHL to ban all head shots to prevent more concussions. The NCAA, Ontario Hockey League and International Ice Hockey Federation already do.
Read the above post. And keep in mind a few pieces of advice:
•Whether it's your beer league teammate or you get your bell rung in a game (falls and collisions are going to happen no matter what) stay off the ice and stay there.
•Mouth guards are a good thing, but they don't prevent concussions.
•Get on your teammates' case to keep their head up while playing (you can still yell at them about being onsides and the amazingly stupid pass they just made). It's safer and will also make them better players.