Concussions keep hockey players off ice for longer

Mon Apr 18, 2011 2:02pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Head injuries are keeping professional hockey players off the ice for longer, indicating either more severe injuries, or a tougher medical regime, according to a study released on Monday.

With the National Hockey League playoffs under way after a season where jarring head shots grabbed headlines, researchers said the number of concussions was leveling off. But the ice time a player loses more than doubles with each subsequent concussion, so there were more absences.

"Either concussions are becoming more severe or physicians are becoming more conservative with their management decisions," said Brian Benson, a physician at the University of Calgary's faculty of kinesiology and the lead author of the report. "We're uncertain of the exact reason but it's certainly an observation of the study."

The report now goes to the NHL's concussion working group, which will examine ways to prevent concussions, or work out how to respond when they do happen.

"The goal in hockey in general is to reduce the risk of this potentially devastating injury without necessarily changing the nature of the game that millions love and enjoy watching," Benson said.

"You don't want to make haphazard decisions but you certainly want to base it on evidence and try to reduce this foreseeable, predictable risk."

The league has faced many calls for tougher penalties for potentially career-ending hits to the head, including some this season after a March incident in which Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens was injured after a body check that sent his head into a stanchion.

He suffered a concussion and fractured vertebra.   Continued...

<p>Montreal Canadiens Max Pacioretty lies on the ice after being hit into a glass stanchion by Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara during the second period of NHL hockey play in Montreal, March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>