Concussions and the lifetime harm they can cause athletes is an issue being dealt with by most of the major professional athletics organizations. The NHL has been trying to get out in front of the problem for a long time now, but this hasn’t stopped accidents from continuing. A good example is a recent career-ending injury sustained by Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins. Savard was hit by a shot to the head back in 2011 and many don’t expect him to ever return to the game.
The NHL took action after the devastating blow by implementing rule changes that would mean severe penalties for those who made such wicked head shots. Despite this, the organization made no change to any of the equipment used by athletes, a seemingly obvious way to help make the game safer.
The current helmet being used by the NHL players is a hard shell, polycarbonate model. It, and others like it, was designed to prevent skull fractures and cuts from occurring. While that’s all good, the helmets were never intended to prevent concussions from occurring. For this to happen a helmet would need to be softer. Softer helmets could help absorb the impact of blows to the head. The problem is that such a soft helmet may not be as good at preventing other kinds of serious injuries like skull fractures.
Though the issue of the helmet is a tricky one that the league will need study, one quick and easy fix would be to employ softer shoulder and elbow pads. The current hard plastic pads used by players only add to the weight and force when one player collides with another. Softer material would help minimize the impact when such an inevitable collision occurs.
Another area where safety experts say time should be spent is in considering mandating the use of mouth guards. Theoretically, mouth guards can be used to absorb force when an upward blow to the jaw occurs and also can help to stabilize the head. There’s debate about how effective they might be at minimizing concussions, but some studies have shown that under the right circumstances there is a slight benefit. Even if the benefit is small, requiring the use of mouth guards is an easy step that the league could take to provide more protection to its players.
Pope McGlamry P.C., currently represents former professional athletes for injuries and damages sustained as a result of suffering concussions while playing sports. If you or someone you love has been injured by a sports-related concussion, you may be entitled to compensation.
Source: “NHL Concussions: Why the League Must Mandate Different Equipment Now,” by Steve Silverman, published at BleacherReport.com.
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