The NHL is Trying to Get Better About Concussions

It only took forever, but progress is progress.

The NHL announced new procedures yesterday in an effort to combat concussions and better diagnose them in real time. Among them are the following:

NHL and the NHLPA have agreed to provide additional support to help identify Players who require evaluation under the NHL/NHLPA Concussion Protocol. A new staff of Central League Spotters will monitor all games from the Player Safety Room in New York and will be authorized to require a Player’s removal from play for evaluation for concussion if the Player exhibits certain visible sign(s) under the Protocol, following a direct or indirect blow to the head. In-Arena League Spotters and On-Ice Officials will complement the Central League Spotters and will also monitor play for signs of possible concussion. Specified sanctions will be imposed on Clubs that violate the Concussion Protocol.  Clubs that do not remove a Player who requires an evaluation will be subject to a mandatory minimum fine for a first offense, with substantially increased fine amounts for any subsequent offense. Additionally, any Player designated for a mandatory evaluation will not be permitted to re-enter the game unless and until he is evaluated by his Club’s medical staff and cleared to play in accordance with the Protocol.

This is awesome. AWESOME. Head injuries are no joke. Look at the NFL: they were sued by former players and the league could end up paying former players up to $1 billion for mishandling and misrepresenting head injuries.

Now, granted: this will not eliminate concussions. Hockey is a contact sport, and there will always be head injuries. But this will help diagnose, treat, and better take care of players so as to better prevent long term damage. Remember the playoff game a few years ago, when James Wisniewski went head first into the boards, was clearly dazed, and still played? That shouldn’t happen. Hopefully, these new procedures help protect the players.

These come in the wake of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby suffering another concussion, which has him out indefinitely. He may not skate when the Penguins raise their banner (sigh- ONE DAY that will be us) on Thursday night. Crosby has missed a ton of time because of concussions, including 107 games in 2011 and 2012. This wouldn’t prevent those injuries, but it is clearly a step in the right direction to help deal with the problems. If the NHL is willing to sit its most marketable star in the interest of his health, it can only be seen as a positive for a league that has, for too long, lagged behind.

So, good for you NHL. I look forward to seeing how these issues are handled going forward this season.

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