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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Tis the season for............................... Concussions

Hey everyone, hope you're all enjoying this Christmas season, only 8 more days till the big day! So before we start just head over to the right side of my blog and answer my poll real quick. Alright so let's dive right in.
This blog is about concussions, well not just concussions, more like players in the NHL that currently or have had a concussion so far this season. (There are a lot) Since we learned in my last blog there is no such thing as "Concussion like symptoms" I will be including players who were not officially diagnosed with concussion but just "Concussion like" symptoms. There are currently 25 players out with concussions, and they are high profile players.
In the month of December alone the NHL has lost; The best player, the two best forwards, one of the best defenceman, one of the leading goal scorers and one of the brightest young players.

Well let's start off with the most obvious one; Sidney Crosby. Not going to go fully in-depth here with Crosby, because everyone knows his story and there is already enough talk about him. Anyways Crosby was concussed last January and missed 10 months, only to come back and basically be out again with concussion issues. I'm not going to fully come out and say that Crosby has a concussion, as he may be suffering from severe Post Concussion Syndrome. Crosby's latest setback came in a game against the Bruins, when he was elbowed in the head/face by David Krejci. Either way Crosby is sitting out again and there is talk that Crosby's career may be cut short due to repeated concussions, something that is not good for the Pens or the NHL. Basically the more I hear and the more I look into it, Crosby came back to early from his previous concussion, he should have waited a full year at least before returning! If the Penguins own up and say Crosby has officially sustained another concussion, he will be out at least a full year.

Earlier this week, we were informed that Flyers captain Chris Pronger will miss the remainder of the season due to severe post concussion syndrome. Pronger was injured on October 24th, missed 6 games then returned November 19 but has not played since. Not only is Pronger done for the season, there is also concern that his career may be over. This is a huge blow to the Flyers who are without their captain and best defenceman, not to mention a guy that can log 26 mins of ice time a night! But for the Flyers their concussion woes don't end there; they also announced that NHL leading scorer Claude Giroux was out with a concussion after receiving a knee to the back of the head from teammate Wayne Simmonds. Giroux currently leads the NHL with 36 points, but has been shut down by the Flyers for a little while, after his symptoms stayed persistent, there is no timetable for Giroux's return.

Next up, or out as the case may be, is Milan Michalek. The Senators leading scorer will also be missing time after he collided with teammate Erik Karlsson in a game on Tuesday night. The two players didn't see each other and collided full speed. The hit sent Michalek flying and left both players a little banged up. He has been diagnosed with a concussion and the Sens have absolutely no idea when he will be back. Michalek  had the league lead in goals and is currently tied for the lead with 19.

Canes young superstar Jeff Skinner is also missing time with a concussion. Skinner's concussion is a result of a hit from Edmonton's Andy Sutton. Skinner currently leads the Canes in scoring and is coming off an amazing rookie campaign. But like the Flyers, the Canes have 2 top notch players out with concussions; Joni Pitkanen the team's top scoring D man is also missing time with a concussion.

These players are just the latest in a list that includes- Mike Richards, Marc Staal, Marc Savard, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek, Brayden Schenn and Nathan Gerbe  This list doesn't inclide goalies Ryan Miller and James Reimer who were out with concussions a little earlier but have since returned to action. Although it sounds horrible these guys are actually top notch players that help to contribute for their teams every night, not just 4th liners who rarely step on the ice. Whether the NHL wants to admit it or not, the league has a problem! "It seems like someone is going down every single night now," retired NHL standout Jeremy Roenick said. "It's frustrating to watch. You don't like having your top guys out." It literally does seem like every night a different top tier player is getting injured. Now concussions were around before this season and players used to play through them however doctors didn't know much about concussions back then! We know more about them today but still not enough. At least we now know not to let players players that are suffering from concussions.

Even though there is a major problem in the league and people are calling for change, there is not much the NHL can do! A good majority of the players out with concussions got theirs from accidental contact or from their own teammates! The NHL has already implemented rule changes to penalize players who deliver head shots to an opposing player. The only official problem is that Brandan Shanahan has not been consistent enough with his suspensions and fines; the players, officials and coaches and frankly Shanahan and the rest of the NHL are all confused as to what's a dirty hit and what's not. The refs are the biggest problem, they get embarrassed when their judgement of the ice is different than Shanahan's; for example if a player elbows a player and the refs let it go, but Shanahan decides to suspend the player, the refs look bad. So now the refs are over compensating with penalties, all a player has to do is fall near the boards and the opposing team is going to the box. But other than changing the core fundamentals of the game we all love to watch and play, there isn't much the NHL can or is willing to do.

Here is what the NHL CAN do; change the equipment the players are wearing; for goodness sake a huge problem is the equipments, players are wearing elbow pads and shoulder pads with hardened plastic cups on the outside. These plastic cups are doing more harm than good, the impact being delivered by an elbow with the plastic cups is extremely sever and ultimately leading to more concussions. The game of hockey has turned into a gladiator sport; we have 6 feet tall players that weigh 200 pounds flying around the ice at an insane speed. The young players like Jeff Skinner don't stand a chance against some of the older stronger players; it's only a matter of time before they get injured; Taylor Hall although he hasn't been concussed yet, he's received injuries because he is just so much smaller than the older guys. Take Tyler Seguin of the Bruins, he's playing great right now, but last season when he first broke into the league he wasn't, and it's because he was scared! He didn't want to get hit and be hurt by the older bigger and stronger players. The way the players in juniors and minor leagues are preparing to play in ridiculous, they are being taught to hit first, and be fluent skaters, for most of these players scoring goals is the second thing they think about on the ice; everyone wants to lay the big hit to get attention. Another thing the NHL can do is widen the rinks to the Olympic ice size. I personally like this idea, maybe not widen it to full Olympic size but widen it a bit. The NHL will be a little hesitant of this option as it means less money for them as there will be fewer seats to sell for games. But widening the ice is something that will likely cut down the amount of concussions and head shots. Think about it, 10 players that are 6 feet tall and weigh 200 pounds, are bound to run into each other on the tiny ice surface they play on.

But here is something I personally find very alarming; deputy commissioner Bill Daly's take on this whole situation; "For people to suggest that the last seven to 10 days and the experience we've had and some of the names that are out should somehow materially alter our approach to this issue is ridiculous, We've probably had periods of time where we've had as many concussions, but they weren't … as high-profile players," he said. "The last thing anybody wants to do is overreact to a very short snapshot in time."
"I don't believe it's a crisis, I don't believe it's an epidemic," said Daly. "There's nothing we can do that doesn't change the game fundamentally that's going to eliminate concussions in our game. Bottom line is they're a fact of life in a contact sport — not just ours — and they continue to be a fact of life.
"As long as we understand the nature of these injuries and we're approaching it responsibly, which I would suggest we are, there's not a whole lot more we can do about it."
Mr. Daly doesn't seem to be concerned about star players being concussed and possibly having career ending injuries, but I can assure you Mr. Bettman is very concerned, if Crosby and Pronger are both gone what does that mean for the game? Lots of money and lots of fans leaving is what it means. The NHL will be set back several years (2006) when the NHL was struggling. Maybe more people are paying more attention because star players are out now (Crosby, Miller, Skinner) but those are the players fans are paying money to watch play, if the star players aren't playing likely fans won't be attending games. The Penguins were nearly bankrupt before they got Crosby from the draft. So the fact that Daly doesn't think this is a big deal and everyone is over reacting is a load of bull! The NHL has a problem and whether they like it or not; how long before one of the Sedins or Ovechkin, or Toews goes down with a concussion, and who knows when or if Crosby will be back.

One thing is for sure concussions will never be fully out of the game, they just can't, it's a contact sport people are going to get hurt, but the rate people are being concussed is what needs to change. Parents aren't going to sign their child up for a sport in which they can damage their brain and jeopardize their long term health. Pretty soon parents may not even let their children watch hockey. This is a major problem in the NHL too many star players are going down with concussions, something has to give, the players have become fearless, but at what price?

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