UPDATE: February 1/2012 – The National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) is having another look at the mandatory use of visors for all players in the NHL. The majority of players in the NHL are currently wearing visors (70%) but many are dead against it, and want it to be a personal decision. Nearly 100% of rookies are wearing the visors, for protection of their eyes.
Toronto, Canada – The National Hockey League (NHL) has clamped down recently on head hits and issued heavy fines and suspensions, but have the concussions stopped? And why are players who come into the NHL allowed to take their face protection off, when they graduate to the big leagues?
This is Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks with his helmet/ visor and ear protection, on the right.
Two unanswered questions by the NHL, and yet the injuries keep coming. The NHL has several players sitting out right now because of concussion (brain injuries) and it was just announced that star player of the Philadelphia Flyers, Chris Pronger will be out for the remainder of this season, if not for his career.
One of the best players in the NHL, Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) was injured last January, and was out for almost a year with a concussion. He returned briefly last month, but was put back on the injured list and may be out the remainder of this season.
Let me try and explain in layman’s terms exactly how and what a concussion is, and how it may occur.
Let’s consider the brain is a round ball with an outer covering, which it is, and inside the ball is a smaller ball, the brain. When the round ball is hit on the outside the inner ball shakes back and forth to each and all sides and thus causes the concussion.
If a player is wearing one of the top helmets on the market, that will protect the outer shell of the ball, but the inner ball will still hit the sides and shake around and then cause a possible concussion, serious brain injury.
It is not like a broken finger or a cut under your eye, it can be a short disability or a lifelong injury that affects the brain and the future of the affected sports player.
Helmets have come a long way since they were introduced, they even have ones with a covering over each ear to protect it from injury, but a solid hit to the helmet will only protect the outer surface of the skull, not the “ball that is inside.”
Helmets and face protection, visors: Many years ago it was made mandatory that all youth players had to wear full face protection, but if they made it to junior hockey all they needed was a visor. After junior hockey and on their way to professional hockey they could decide to wear, or not wear any kind of facial protection. The majority of graduates to the NHL maintain the wearing of visors, at least, and some in the media still today, consider them “suck cages, not men” which is the furthest thing from the truth.
They are smart, they do not want to lose an eye, heaven forbid, and then lose their career, they worked their whole life for. Some companies have taken it even a step further with the added protection of a coverings over the ears.
The players in the NHL are not sucks, and the NHL needs to protect it’s most important commodity which is the players, instead of sticking their heads in the sand and hoping it will go away. It will not go away, and although they have put new procedures in place, much more is needed to be done, before they lose another Sidney Crosby, or Chris Pronger. It’s not “concussion like” just say it like it is, it’s a brain injury and could affect the players future life on and off the ice.
This is the very least, that professional sports players deserve and need.