December 27, 2011

Will NHL Players Follow NFL Players and Sue Over Concussions?

The concussion crisis in professional ice hockey continued today with the sobering news that Nashville Predators star forward Shea Weber is out indefinitely with a concussion.
The news regarding Weber is the latest blow to the NHL and their efforts at limiting hits to the head and promoting the sport to a wider audience. Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, Jeff Skinner, Joni Pitkanen, Kris Letang, Chris Pronger, Zbynek Michalek, Marc Staal, Robert Bortuzzo, Jay Beagle, Milan Michalek, Brayden Schenn, Radek Martinek, Marek Zidlicky, Nathan Gerbe, Nino Niederreiter, Peter Mueller, Marc Savard, Ian Laperriere and Mike Green. These are some of the victims but the list is even longer. One of these players with concussion symptoms is unacceptable. This many is a crisis that must be dealt with.
Some analysts say the increased speed of the game following new rules implemented after the lockout are to blame for the increase. Did removing the red line cause more neutral zone crashes between opposing players? Perhaps. Others argue that the increase in concussions is a result of improved detection and treatment by the league. Would a bigger ice surface help avoid collisions? Would stronger helmets with more padding protect the players from head injuries in the event of a collision? Maybe.
There are many possible reasons behind the increase in concussions and many possible solutions. They should all be on the table and should be the number one topic of discussion in the NHL until there is a noticeable decrease in head injuries.
Otherwise, there is the very real possibility NHL players could take legal action similar to what 21 former NFL players recently did in suing the NFL over "severe and permanent brain damage they say is linked to concussions suffered on the job." According to the USA Today story, the lawsuit "accuses the NFL of deliberately omitting or concealing years of evidence linking concussions to long-term neurological problems."
Yes, football and hockey are violent sports. But that doesn't mean the leagues, players and fans should accept concussions as part of the job risks these athletes signed up for. If legal action is the only avenue players have to protect their precious noggins than more power to them. 
by Josh Marks

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