Concussions Lead Agenda At NHL's General Manager Meetings

The NHL's 30 general managers are in Boca Raton, Fla. this week to discuss a multitude of issues. On Monday as the meetings kicked off, the focus was yet again on concussions, as Commissioner Gary Bettman touted the success of Rule 48, implemented a year ago to eliminate blindside hits to the head.

Meredith Qualls of SB Nation's Raw Charge was in Boca Raton for Bettman's press conference, where he talked about the results of a concussion study he teased during his State of the League address at January's All-Star Game.

From the Concussion Study, the data dissects the 80 concussions suffered this year (the 2010-11 season, through March 1) in terms how how they were received.

  • Accidental, 26%. This includes hits from teammates, pucks, tripping, and most significantly, inadvertent collisions between opponents. Notably, the accidental concussion is what Sidney Crosby suffered during the Winter Classic. At 26% for 2010-11, this number has doubled from accidental hits suffered in 2009-10. 
  • Fighting, 8%. 
  • Legal, 44%. This includes hits to the body and hits to the head that do not warrant penalties.
  • Illegal, 17%. Primarily blindside hits to the head, but also includes other prohibited hits to the head and body. Clearly, illegal hits are distinguished from legal hits in that the are punishable, either by penalty or supplemental discipline.

(You'll note too, that the concussion percentages only add up to 95%; four concussions that occurred this season were unaccounted for, because they were discovered after the fact and were not caught on video.)

Bettman also unveiled what the NHL is calling the "Five Point Plan for Player Safety." That plan involves:

  1. Brendan Shanahan will work with the NHLPA on reducing the size, while still keeping the protection, of player equipment. 
  2. The NHL will implement changes to the current in-game concussion protocol, moving from a system where the team trainer gives a quick player test on the bench to a system where the team doctor gives those tests in a quiet room away from the ice. Also, if a player shows and "listed symptoms" of a concussion or if they grab their head following a hit, they will be held out of the game on a mandatory basis.
  3. Supplementary discipline will be considered for teams and coaches that have a what the NHL determines as a "repeat offender" on their roster.
  4. The NHL has hired an engineering firm to inspect the 30 rinks around the league to find areas where safety measures can be enhanced.
  5. Finally, a "blue-ribbon panel" consisting of former players will analyze all of these rule issues, recommend changes and "examine topics relevant to the issue."

It's a nice start, to be sure. Most of all, the NHL has been extremely proactive with their steps around this issue. Certainly they've been reactive as well, with many of these rules finding influence in the Marc Savard, Sidney Crosby and Max Pacioretty incidents of the last year, among others. Still, the NHL seems to be at the fore-front at tackling concussion issues that have plagued all sports, and that should be applauded. 

Let's not pass judgment yet, though. All of this sounds good in theory, but who knows if it'll work on the ice?

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