Friday, December 16, 2011

The cost of concussions is $70 million

Last season over 70 players or 10% of players in the NHL missed some time as a result of a concussion. Some would call it an epidemic, that might be a hyperbole. This season the number of diagnosed concussions has reached 25 and each day another name has been added to the list. The problem touches star players and journeymen alike. The cost to teams is significant. At the moment NHL teams are on the hook for $70 million for players whose futures are cloudy to say the least. Some may be back playing shortly while others like Marc Savard and Chris Pronger may never return.

Following a crack down on headshots many in hockey are asking why has the number of concussions being incurred not dropped? Well I have my theories. Many are suggesting that a greater awareness of by players, trainers and team doctors has increased the number of diagnoses. Players who are now concerned about their future are coming forward and not hiding their symptoms. Quite a number of former players are stepping forward and admitting they played with concussions, partly because the belief that you should suck it up but as well because they didn't realize their symptoms related to a concussion.

I believed the crack down on headshots is not going to have an immediate impact. I would suggest that most players have suffered several concussions in their career going back to when they were in their teens. Those previous concussions have an accumulative effect making them more susceptible to a future concussion. In some cases a body check without a hit to the head can trigger concussion-like symptoms. Just having your neck snap back running into someone can do it. You will need to make all levels of hockey safer and only after several years will you begin to notice a drop off.

Let's not forget that the game is being played at a much higher speed and the players on average weigh more. So each jarring hit, even if clean, can impact on the brain, these are acceleration-deceleration injuries or whiplash. The game has evolved and you can't bring back the 1960s style of game or players. I really don't have a solution but you can't deny there is a problem.

Player .................Salary ($ million)
Sidney Crosby9.00
Mike Richards6.60
Claude Giroux2.75
Chris Pronger7.60
Jeff Skinner0.90
Kris Letang3.50
Milan Michallek4.50
Marc Staal3.68
Marc Savard7.00
Chuck Kobasew1.25
Josh Harding0.75
Mark Sauer1.25
Nathan Gerbe1.25
Nino Niederreiter0.90
Peter Mueller2.50
Ryan Wilson1.28
Kurt Sauer1.75
Andy McDonald4.20
Bryden Schenn0.90
Ian Laperierre1.00
Jay Beagle 0.53
Joni Pitkanen4.50

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