MY TAKE: CONCUSSIONS

Brian Sutherby
November 28 2013 09:42AM

On Monday ten former NHL players filed a class action lawsuit against the NHL for concussions they suffered while playing hockey. One more player has since joined. If you haven’t seen it in its entirety, you can check it out here.

I have no idea what the gentleman that played the game in the decades before me went through. I don't know what the medical protocols were for guys concussed or how medically informed they were, way back when.

I don’t even know if the NHL knew. That’s the biggest question in all of this.

In the 70’s, 80’s and mid 90’s, it’s very reasonable to believe players may not have known what a concussion was or the severity of a concussion. The information and education may not have been there.

If it was, maybe some guys wouldn’t have tried to play through it. Perhaps they would have gone to a trainer if they knew more. Perhaps they wouldn’t have just sniffed that smelling salt and hopped back over the boards.

From what I gather, the players will have to prove the NHL knowingly withheld medical information about concussions and the long term effects of it. Your guess is as good as mine and it will be interesting to see how this all play’s out.

STORY TIME

My playing days were long after the guys currently named in the lawsuit. I played in a different time, but over the course of my junior and professional career I felt concussion protocol and education was handled well for me personally.

In 1998 at sixteen years old I began my Western Hockey League career with the Moose Jaw Warriors. In 2002 I suffered my first diagnosed concussion. It was an eye opening experience to say the least.

We were in Brandon, Manitoba, playing the Wheatkings and sixteen seconds into the game Jordin Tootoo caught me with what would now be an illegal hit. He came from the backside and just clipped my chin with his shoulder. I went down on one knee and then skated to the bench on my own. I was escorted to the dressing room shortly thereafter.

At the time I didn’t think it was a penalty because it wasn’t, but he was absolutely trying to hurt me. That was hockey and I was fine with it because It was within the rules. I was mad at myself for not seeing him and obviously hoped to seek some form of retribution in the future.

OUT OF IT

I say all this, only after watching video of the play. I was not knocked unconscious, but I don't recall anything from the sixteen second mark of the first period until about 2 hours outside of Moose Jaw on our way home after the game. That's approximately 5-6 hours.

I'll never forget the moment when I realized what was happening. We were at the back of the bus and I asked the boys what happened? That was followed by some eye rolls, a few chuckles and someone saying “just read your damn note”

I looked down and on my lap there was a piece of paper with 3 things written on it.

1. Tootoo knocked you out with a hit 16 seconds in

2. Yes someone fought him

3. You called your parents

My memory kept resetting. Brandon, Manitoba was a four hour bus ride from Moose Jaw and I asked the same questions every five minutes. I was the most annoying person in the world. When I finally remember calling my mom she was very upset and told me I had called her close to twenty times, as if I had never spoke to her before.

I then reassured my parents I was back on this planet and that I had a headache, but felt ok.

RECOVERY PROTOCOL CIRCA 2002

When I got to my billets house, one of them had to monitor my sleep that night. I recall not being allowed to do anything until I was symptom free for a week. I had headaches for a couple days but then things subsided. I remember having to visit our team doctor several times before I was cleared to practice and then play.

Even back then I felt like the concussion was treated properly to my knowledge. Before I was allowed back on the ice, I was made aware that repeated concussions could be troublesome for the brain. If there was any doubt that I didn’t grasp that, my parents made sure I did. There was great concern of the severity of the hit and I needed to convince them as well as the doctor I was ok before returning.

BELL RUNG

During my pro career, I can think of a few times where I had my "bell rung" (This clip being one of them, let it run to about the 12 second mark, then enjoy).

It felt like getting struck by lightning (I’ve never been struck by lightning). The sound in the building would go out; my vision was spotty and almost like looking through a cracked windshield. After a minute or two, everything was fine. Studies have revealed those are probably concussions as well.

I went 11 years before taking another serious blow and it was handled almost the exact same as my concussion back in 2002.

My season ended this year in March with a punch to the temple and the similar “bell rung” feeling as I skated to the penalty box. I knew something was wrong but I assumed it would subside. I came out of the box and played the next shift. I even played a couple more after that. When nothing changed, I left the game.

TRAINERS

Every team and every trainer is different. Just because I haven’t felt mislead in my years doesn’t mean other players couldn’t have been.

However, if I had not approached my trainer in that game and told him of my symptoms, he wouldn’t have ever known. How could he? If I wasn’t wobbling around or flat on my back unconscious, how would anyone else know?

The onus was on me to tell him. I knew this one was a little worse than other times and eventually sought help. If I didn’t, I have no one else to blame but myself.

DON’T LIKE

What bothers me in the lawsuit is that it tries to tear down things in the sport to near present day that everyone playing it accepted.  I feel terrible for the players that are struggling today and if they were misled and shoveled back over the boards, I hope they are compensated.

Its one thing to be uneducated back then and feel wronged if you believe information was withheld, but players always knew the rules.

The lawsuit talks about how players were forced to retire in the late 1990’s to 2011 because the NHL refused to change the head targeting hits or ban fighting and actually got rid of obstruction to make it more dangerous. I disagree.

Those were the rules of the game. No one forced us to play hockey. Getting hurt had to of been an assumed risk based on the rules of the game.

Thankfully those players were educated enough to stop playing and prevent further damage to their brains.

RISK

The game is dangerous, it’s fast and it’s violent. That’s also what makes it so great to watch and play. In the last few years there has been more information released about the cause and effects of repeated head blows and CTE. It’s very sad and scary, no question.

BUT..

Even with all that, I have yet to see a healthy player walk away from the game in fear of getting hurt. Of course certain players that have suffered concussions and haven't returned to play are a different story, but no one healthy that I know of has said “you know what, my love for this game is not enough for the risk of long term affects.”

All Doctors and the NHL can do is continue to educate the players. Continue to encourage small changes that help make it safer, but I think the players and the people within the game should decide how rough the game is. They are the one’s playing.

NO REGRETS

I’m still suffering from post-concussion symptoms and at times it’s scary to think about what lies ahead, but things are improving. I have aches and pains just like most that played for a long time, but I don't feel like I didn't understand the risks. I knew full well what I was getting into.

For 27 years I got to do something that I loved and to the absolute fullest. I have zero regrets about that. I would do it all again tomorrow if I could because it’s the best game on earth.

I can't speak for other players but I have to assume to continually put their body on the line, many feel the same way.

C76a4c69c9026575581a01d4ac34111c
A Moose Jaw Warriors alumnus and veteran of 460 NHL games with the Capitals, Ducks and Stars—Sutherby is here to regale us with tales of the WJHC, life as an NHL player and much more from a Pro’s perspective. Co-Host's the Jason Gregor show on TSN1260 on Tuesday's from 3-5 and Coaches at www.proconnectionhockey.com Twitter:@briansutherby
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#1 Burnward
November 28 2013, 10:03AM
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You play the game you take the chances. They know the score.

You're my kind of dude, Brian. I would like you to have my back any day.

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#2 Spydyr
November 28 2013, 09:45AM
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Fist on a concussion article...sweet.

Hope the post-concussion symptoms subside over time for you Brian.

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#3 vetinari
November 28 2013, 10:53AM
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Great article Brian and to fill in some of the likely legal issues here's the short version:

1. it's the players allegations against the league so they will ultimately have to prove their claims on a "balance of probabilities" (plain English: "more likely than not" or "greater than 50% likelihood" that the league is wholly or partly responsible for their financial losses).

2. the action will have to prove that the League knew (or reasonably "ought to have known") that the fighting or physical play would likely cause brain injuries to the players and did not take reasonable and prudent steps to reduce or eliminate the risk to players.

3. the League will challenge it on the basis of "causation" and "contributory actions" by the players, themselves.

Causation means that an act resulted in the damage suffered by the other party (i.e., if an employee stocking shelves in a grocery store accidently drops and breaks a carton of milk in the aisle of the store and before the store could mark it as a hazard or clean it up, a customer slipped, fell and broke their arm, you could conclude that the injury would likely not have happened but for the spilled beverage-- causation).

The League will also argue that it does not control the conduct and individual decision-making of the players while in play and can only issue penalties and sanctions after-the-fact.

Likewise, they will say that either the players voluntarily assumed the risk of injury by playing the game and were the ones who actually inflicted the physical harm on each other.

The League will also try to show that the area was an emerging and evolving area of understanding and that they took all reasonable and prudent safety precautions to protect players as information became available.

The League will also say that the NHLPA was partly responsible for any damages because "player safety" is a collective bargaining obligation (remember the fight to get ALL players to wear helmets? The NHLPA had to agree to that and it was grandfathered that players who entered the League before a certain point did not have to wear them-- hello, MacT!) and the League can only advance protocols to the extent agreed to by the NHLPA.

All that said, I suspect that the NHL may be in a better position to defend the player's claims than the NFL was, however, I suspect that what you will see is a 2-3 year window of various court applications and discoveries, followed by a settlement of some type, whether made known to the public or not. I'm not intending to be a cheerleader for the NHL with this information but to only explain the processes involved and why it's not likely a "slam dunk" case...

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#4 Robin Brownlee
November 28 2013, 11:15AM
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Terrific insight, Brian.

Your perspective is valuable, as is relating your own experiences without assuming everybody was treated the same way you were.

As somebody who was 20 years old in 1978 and who played hockey, lacrosse and football, I can say without any doubt the medical information available then was minute compared to what it is now. Protocols? None, really.

When your trainer held up his hand and asked: "How many fingers?" you were generally good to go if you got it right. Some smelling salts, as you said, or maybe you'd puke and rest for a couple of days. Then, back at it.

Can't say with certainty how many concussions I had, but it's in double digits. Ï lasted about three minutes in Road Hockey To Conquer Cancer against Gregor's team two summers ago, took a nothing hit and was gone again -- nausea, disorientation. EMT took one look in my eyes and said, "You're done."

35 years after playing any sport competitively, and nowhere near the NHL level, I remain impaired. I'm sensitive to light and struggle terribly with memory to the point when there are times I cannot even recall my mother's name. Scary.

In my case, I've never felt coaches or trainers misled me or withheld information. It was a different era and we just didn't know as much. I feel for players of my era and into the 80s and 90s who just kept strapping it on and going out there because we didn't know then what we know now about the long-term effects.

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#5 Rob...
November 28 2013, 10:39AM
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Brian, this is only half of the article I'd like to see. I'd love to read what role you think the NHLPA should have in preventing concussions, and whether or not the NHLPA is doing enough to go after cheapshot artists and headhunters either directly or through CBA negotiations.

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#6 Retsinnab5
November 28 2013, 09:48AM
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You can take head shots out of the game but you can't take take out body checking.

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#7 Ruprecht
November 28 2013, 10:31AM
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It's a good thing all of these guys have representation in a lawsuit. The ones I really feel for are the droves of kids who looked up to these guys, played minor hockey while watching their heroes be poured over the boards, then assumed that was the way of the Hockey Player. I never played pro, but by the time I hit Junior I had to have witnessed at least 50 concussions. Had a few myself. The thing is, very few of these guys made it, none of them have the backing of a union or it's lawyers...yet I feel perhaps the risk of the sport was misrepresented as equally to these players in terms on concussions. Who is fighting for them and how will they be compensated?

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#9 book¡e
November 28 2013, 11:08AM
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"Even with all that, I have yet to see a healthy player walk away from the game in fear of getting hurt."

Brian, this may say something about the notion of 'free will'. As a researcher, I have to deal with issues of ethics frequently and I can tell you that the risk/reward payoff of playing in the NHL would not pass a research ethics review board. Let me explain why.

To get my research approved, I have to demonstrate that any incentive I offer does not unduly influence them to the point of corrupting their judgement. The problem with the current situation in the NHL is that you offer people an economic incentive that is far beyond that which most could achieve elsewhere and as such, it would be construed as a level of incentive that corrupts judgement.

Some of this may come into the lawsuit and there is a justification for it.

With that said, I think the NHL had better start considering what the game will be like with less risk of serious harm because it will not be permitted to continue as it is. The possibility of lawsuits is one thing, but more importantly are the impacts on the millions of kids playing minor league hockey. I suspect that that hockey we watch in 2025 will be much more like Olympic hockey and we will all love the game just as much. I watch the game for the love of hockey and while hockey with fewer head shots and fights will be different, it will still be hockey and still be great.

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#10 Czar
November 28 2013, 10:47AM
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Did Tambellini add his name to the lawsuit? That would explain a lot.

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#12 book¡e
November 28 2013, 11:20AM
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@Robin Brownlee

What would you do if you found out that the leagues you were playing in did have more information than was made available to players and they withheld it because it would hurt their profits and cause problems for them.

That is the basis of the lawsuit. These things are held to high standards (the court tends to lean towards NOT awarding judgments because the onus is on the plaintiff to prove harm and intent or negligence). So, we will see what the facts are as it unfolds.

I don't know what the details are or the outcome, but I am waiting to see before I make any decision with regards to the culpability of the league for the harm caused to these players.

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#13 ThatGuy109
November 28 2013, 10:51AM
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Thanks for the insightful article. It's always nice to hear the opinion of someone that has actually played the game at that level.

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#14 Wanye
November 28 2013, 12:38PM
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Man I remember watching that Stars-Sharks game live. I was all "DAMN SUDS GOT CRUSHED" then I was all "BUT HE GOT THE ASSIST" then I was all "hmmm I hope he's ok"

Good article.

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#15 netzky99
November 28 2013, 11:08AM
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Great article Sudsy. The game has gotten so fast, and players so much bigger it doesnt seem like hitting as we know it now can stay in the game. The big question: If gear cannot fully protect the player, how can you eliminate even inadvertent contact to the head?

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#16 Mike Krushelnyski
November 28 2013, 11:28AM
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Nice apple before getting crushed, Sutherby :)

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#17 Ed in Edmonton
November 28 2013, 12:42PM
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I certainly appreciate the analysis Venteri has supplied. It is obvious that no-one should assume that the case has no merit until a lot more of the circumstances are understood It is certainly not as simple as just blowing it off as saying the players knew the risks and they should live with the consequences.

I have worked in industrial plants for over 30 years and I see plenty of parallels here. The obligations of the employer to ensure worker safety is much higher now than 30 years ago, as it should be. It is the employer's responsibility to ensure the worker is working safely and understands the risks of the job.

An employer must show due diligence that they did everything reasonable to mitigate the risks. An employer claiming to be unaware of a risk that caused harm would only be valid if the employer could show there was no way they could have known. If there was information available that showed concussions need to be handled "differently" than just smelling salts and get back out there, and the NHL either didn't bother to inform themselves or didn't act on the information, that could be a problem for the NHL.

It seems to me that the key elements to this case will be causation, as Venteri explained, and that the NHL either knew the risks (or should have known the risks) and did not inform and protect the players accordingly. At this point I don't believe any specifics are available to understand if the plaintiffs might have a reasonable claim for this.

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#18 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 28 2013, 01:46PM
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Fantastic article Suds, the part about the bus ride back where you kept blanking was legitimately scary.

I think removing the hard plastic caps from shoulder pads and elbow pads, or at least making them smaller, would help reduce the number of clipping incidents. Even when I was playing minor hockey in the mid-90s and early 2000s, the pads were much smaller than they are now. When you delivered a hard shoulder check, you felt it quite a bit. At the NHL level, with guys going upwards of 30 km/h, it might make someone think twice before exploding upwards into a guy's jaw.

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#19 Randall Shermer
November 28 2013, 10:54AM
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Great read. Glorious hit video. I feel bad for the suffering players and can certainly believe that the old time nhl didn't treat the players well enough. We have heard other stories...

I'm not a lawyer but altering rules to deter headshots or fighting is merely risk reduction, at best, and will not eliminate the requirement that players accept the risks and their consequences.

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#20 Lowe Expectations
November 28 2013, 12:28PM
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I'm not sure about the NHL lawsuit, but in the NFL players lawsuit part of the reason was the fact that there were ex players suffering from many types of ailments (dementia, depression & other concussion related problems) who were young (around 50 years of age) and faced huge medical bills. The NFL pensions were crappy and former players were going broke.

I wonder if any of the NHL players in this class action are also suffering from the same problems.

I have a friend in his 40's who was in a bad car accident. The whiplash/concussion has made him incapable of working (poor memory, bad headaches, just plain crappy days). He lives on a disability payment from an insurance payout. Trust me, this is not the way you want to live.

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#21 BigE91
November 28 2013, 03:41PM
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Anar Saju wrote:

I empathize with the injured players, but inherently, hockey is a physical game, which involves rough and tumble play. Those who choose to play hockey must be aware of the dangers involved. Having related this, when it comes to suing the NHL, I will argue against players.

Primarily, concussions are generally consequences of fights, which can lead to disastrous repercussions. Thus, the best solution would be to abolish fighting in professional hockey. The NHL cannot be liable for injuries caused by fights just like a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident and under the influence of alcohol cannot blame the government for his adversity. Subsequently, the best way to resolve this issue is to suspend players for their actions instead.

Alternatively, should the occurrence be of a natural tendency - such as a fall or head shots, then preventive measures should be taken; conspicuously mandatory actions are taken by NHL to coerce players to wear helmets and padded sportswear. Of note, even if the National Hockey League becomes liable for a player's injury, then exceptions cannot be made for players who are concussed only; because injuries such as broken ankle, hair line fractures occur on an everyday basis in every sport. Subsequently,if a player considers ice-hockey to be a dangerous sport, then he has a right to chose another that will not cause him any injuries.

If you are going to infer that most concussions in the NHL are a result of fighting, please feel free to back that up with some statistics.

I don't have the numbers but generally thinking about most of the games recent long term head injuries they've occurred due to a headshot or "big hit". There certainly have been some due to fights but I'd be willing to bet the numbers favour other causes rather than fighting.

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#22 westcoastoil
November 28 2013, 11:15AM
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Rob... wrote:

Brian, this is only half of the article I'd like to see. I'd love to read what role you think the NHLPA should have in preventing concussions, and whether or not the NHLPA is doing enough to go after cheapshot artists and headhunters either directly or through CBA negotiations.

100% Rob. Brian it would be great to get a players perspective as a member of the NHLPA on these things.

As an outsider we are told that safety changes the league or teams have wanted to implement at times - such as the visor requirement and the protective boot over the skate - were blocked by the PA.

Even more so I've always found it strange that the PA has joined with the league to promote a tougher stance on suspensions when there is a clear cut dirty play: Think Matt Cooke on Marc Savard, Brian Marchment taking out however may knees he did during his career. I get that Cooke is a PA member just like Savard, but the PA has always seemed to take the position of protecting the offender, rather than protecting the players that are injured. If the PA together with the League advocated stiffer suspensions for the cheap head shot, and really dirty play stuff in would benefit all of the members save for the ass hats who are out to injure. What's your take on this?

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#23 book¡e
November 28 2013, 11:16AM
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Burnward wrote:

You play the game you take the chances. They know the score.

You're my kind of dude, Brian. I would like you to have my back any day.

Why mandate helmets then?

The point is that the league takes actions to mitigate risks of harm because it is in the best interests of the players and indeed in the best interests of the NHL.

Are you arguing that the current approach (the status quo) is the best one and that further changes are not required? Should some existing changes be removed? Should they remove the visor rule because things were better last year or should it stay?

I am amazed at how many people frequently argue that the status quo is the perfect state, despite the fact that the status quo continues to change over time.

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#24 Bubba
November 28 2013, 11:28AM
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While I admire your stance on making an informed decision to play hockey despite the risks involved, I can't help but wonder if your lifetime of training and preparation trying to get into the NHL were just too much of a motivator to cause you to say 'no' at any point in your career to not proceed despite the risks.... I don't blame you a bit.... I myself chose to smoke cigarettes for many years despite being aware of the health risks.... In spite of this, many people in the U.S. are trying to get class action money for the harmful effects of cigarette smoking because the cig companies knowingly sold a harmful product. In today's NHL, fighint is still legal, as is body checking....either one of those can cause concussions if things go wrong. In my opinion, the NHL is headed in the same direction as the NFL. If they continue to allow conduct on the ice that COULD lead to concussions, they open themselves up to potential lawsuits. Good luck to them....but I see full contact hockey - like full contact football- as on the way out in the future

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#25 The Oilers Shot Clock
November 28 2013, 11:32AM
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I would give the NHL the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the past if it wasn't for so many incidents in the modern, "we now definitely know about concussions" era.

Kariya and the Devils. He shouldn't have come back after the snot bubbles. We saw his visor fog when he came back to consciousness. That was bad. Coming back to score a goal changes nothing.

Last year, playoffs, Brooks Orpik. He was out on his feet. He had no idea where he was but the Penguins were short defenseman and kept him in the game. Didnt miss a shift. That was real bad.

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/did-brooks-orpik-play-with-a-concussion-late-in-overtime/article12381183/?service=mobile

Just two of the top of my head but there's many more. Playoffs are an inconvenient time for the quite room.

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#26 Robin Brownlee
November 28 2013, 11:39AM
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@book¡e

You got it.

What medical information was available and when? Was everything that was known passed on to the players so they could make an informed decision about long-term risks?

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#27 BigE91
November 28 2013, 01:06PM
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Great article Brian. Information and knowledge about concussions and head injuries has come so far in recent years. I think back to the Buffalo Bills run of 4 straight Super Bowl losses in the early 90's and I believe it was in 92 that as the game wore on and the Bills were getting beat the camera panned to the sidelines where teammate were literally holding up Jim Kelly as he was out on his feet. Yet when the Bills offense went back out to the field Kelly was out there. That would never be allowed to happen now. Back then Kelly was heralded as a warrior, now not so much.

Jonathon Toews is considered to be one of hockey's great young superstars, a leader cut from the cloth of Messier, Yzerman, Sakic and others. Yet a few weeks ago Toews admitted to playing in the Stanley Cup Final with a concussion. Why? Because It's The Cup of course. Is that really leadership in the concussion era? Personally, I lost a lot of respect for Toews when he made that revelation. He could have kept it to himself and no one would have been the wiser. Instead he's telling everyone it is still ok to sweep these issues under the rug when it is convenient.

It's difficult to see progress on these issues when the players are only willing to recognize the problem when it is convenient. Toews comments and actions trivialize the issue that has cost many players their careers and many others to suffer long term issues as Robin Brownlee pointed out in his comment.

Players run the risk of getting injured everytime they step on the ice. Getting paid millions of dollars and playing for the cup doesn't absolve a person from following protocols. It is a disservice to both the league and their teammates and every other player in the league as well as to the kids and players watching and wanting to emulate their favourite players.

Personally, I was knocked unconscious while reffing a minor hockey game when I fell backwards against the boards. Almost an entire day of my life is missing aside from stories that I have been told by others that were around me that day. It's not a fun experience not remembering the events of a day or having to refrain from physical activity for weeks and months. I'm thankful that the knowledge of concussions and head injuries had progressed to the point where a ct scan is protocol and that coaches and officials are being educated to watch for signs of head injuries. In my case, so I've been told, I was able to leave the ice on my own power and after a few minutes sitting on the bench and drinking water, finished reffing the period before going to the refs room. The coaches and game officials came to check in during the break and I had no recollection of what happened and it was at that point I was taken to the hospital.

Though this is long winded, my point here is that we know when we have a sore arm and what our capabilities are. If we can work or play through the pain. That isn't the case with head injuries. When we have a concussion our own best judgement is out the window and the knowledge that has been gained over the past few years becomes critical as we look out for those around us so that further harm is not inflicted.

Whether or not the NHL or NFL or other professional leagues knew more about concussions is only part of the story. Players, trainers, coaches and everyone around the game have a responsibility to educate themselves on the risks and hazards of their work environment.

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#28 Oilers need Ogie Ogilthorpe!
November 28 2013, 09:29PM
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Wow. Great article, and probably the most intelligent and thought-provoking comments section I've ever seen on this site. Way to bring out the best in everybody Suds! Thx

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#29 Chad
November 28 2013, 11:06AM
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At least you guys scored on that play. Be nice if some Oilers could play that way

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#30 book¡e
November 28 2013, 11:10AM
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netzky99 wrote:

Great article Sudsy. The game has gotten so fast, and players so much bigger it doesnt seem like hitting as we know it now can stay in the game. The big question: If gear cannot fully protect the player, how can you eliminate even inadvertent contact to the head?

I don't think the inadvertent hits, falls, and other risks will need to be removed. Rather, I think the riskiest elements will need to be removed. All careers carry some risk.

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#31 JFR
November 28 2013, 11:10AM
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These concussions are and always will be a point of contention. You don't play a game like hockey without knowing that your health will take a toll. My uncle played major junior in the 80s and has a fused wrist and has had 2 back surgeries and would do it all again. The problem with concussion discussions is when the "goon" players like Boogards tragic story is blamed on head injuries. Singers/actors commit suicide accidental or not without the concussion history. So to say an athlete dies early because of fighting or the hits is pure speculation or anyone's part. It's a story as old as stories, would you give up health and years later in life for the wealth and fame hockey...might bring? It's the young making the decisions so we all know that answer. Players like Selanne are still willing to go out and play despite the risks, so the present game must not be that dangerous.... He doesn't need the $! I feel for these players but I doubt the NHL hid info on purpose and that the NFL did either. Fact is the NFL settled so the lawyers are making a cash grab, but the NHL is stingy so I don't think a settlement is in the near future.

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#32 Anar Saju
November 28 2013, 03:21PM
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I empathize with the injured players, but inherently, hockey is a physical game, which involves rough and tumble play. Those who choose to play hockey must be aware of the dangers involved. Having related this, when it comes to suing the NHL, I will argue against players.

Primarily, concussions are generally consequences of fights, which can lead to disastrous repercussions. Thus, the best solution would be to abolish fighting in professional hockey. The NHL cannot be liable for injuries caused by fights just like a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident and under the influence of alcohol cannot blame the government for his adversity. Subsequently, the best way to resolve this issue is to suspend players for their actions instead.

Alternatively, should the occurrence be of a natural tendency - such as a fall or head shots, then preventive measures should be taken; conspicuously mandatory actions are taken by NHL to coerce players to wear helmets and padded sportswear. Of note, even if the National Hockey League becomes liable for a player's injury, then exceptions cannot be made for players who are concussed only; because injuries such as broken ankle, hair line fractures occur on an everyday basis in every sport. Subsequently,if a player considers ice-hockey to be a dangerous sport, then he has a right to chose another that will not cause him any injuries.

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#33 finn_fann
November 28 2013, 05:24PM
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You don't have to read them, but for those saying that we didn't know that concussions had lasting effects before 1990-2000...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6935553

This is an article from 1980 concluding that men playing sports (in New Zealand of all places, so you can't say they're a bunch of dandies) are well aware that concussions have long lasting effects, and that most would welcome actions to reduce brain damage from repeated concussions.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1842360/

This link is a paper from 1967 talking about the neurological deficits after a concussion. It specifically mentions hockey and american football as being especially prone to concussion over other sports. Also worth noting that a lot of the studies they talk about go back as far to the 1930's-50's.

So, if they were writing papers like this in the 60's, I think there is a valid argument that even though the public and the athletes may not have known about the risks, the team doctors and NHL lawyers definitely should have.

I also agree with Book;e that as long as there is a strong financial incentive, people will sign up to do anything. It is actually a written law that people can't sign waivers to have criminal acts done to them (such as stabbing, murder, etc.), presumably because if this law didn't exist, people would go as far as signing these things if the price was right. This means that putting the full burden on athletes is not fair, since they have the most to gain in the immediate future by selling off their health.

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#34 Jeremy Ian
November 29 2013, 06:33AM
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This is a great article and I hope it goes viral. But it focuses on players knowing the bounds of the rules and what the players knew about MTBI. The issue at stake, however, is whether the League knowingly dismissed evidence about the hazards of MTBI when it made the rules.

I agree that the NHLers are going to face a harder time than the NFLers proving denial - amongst other things because when the NFL did implement a policy, it handled it terribly.

The issue is whether there was evidence that MTBI could be alleviated with alternative policies. This was known well before the NHL was finally pressured to put a policy in place in 1992. The NCAA, for instance, began monitoring earlier (though it did not implement a formal policy until 2010! -- which has landed that corrupt organization a lawsuit of their own, involving football, soccer, and hockey players.

The issue is that profit-making organizations had little self-interest in watching MTBI; what's at stake is wether they denied evidence in making policy that put players at risk they otherwise would not have to endure.

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#35 westcoastoil
November 28 2013, 11:19AM
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westcoastoil wrote:

100% Rob. Brian it would be great to get a players perspective as a member of the NHLPA on these things.

As an outsider we are told that safety changes the league or teams have wanted to implement at times - such as the visor requirement and the protective boot over the skate - were blocked by the PA.

Even more so I've always found it strange that the PA has joined with the league to promote a tougher stance on suspensions when there is a clear cut dirty play: Think Matt Cooke on Marc Savard, Brian Marchment taking out however may knees he did during his career. I get that Cooke is a PA member just like Savard, but the PA has always seemed to take the position of protecting the offender, rather than protecting the players that are injured. If the PA together with the League advocated stiffer suspensions for the cheap head shot, and really dirty play stuff in would benefit all of the members save for the ass hats who are out to injure. What's your take on this?

Meant to say that the PA has NOT joined with the league...

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#36 Curcro
November 28 2013, 03:39PM
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I think something that sometimes gets lost in legal discussions that work in the favor of the plaintiff is the time from getting information, to applying it in a meaningful way.

If you get piece A of information, you then have to decide how to apply it, and in the case of the NHL you have to get the majority of 30 members to agree on the application. This takes time.

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#37 Dog Train
November 28 2013, 04:45PM
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Information on concussions and their long-term effects is still a fairly new phenomenon. I would like to think that if more was known back during the playing days of the players in this lawsuit, then different precautions would have been taken. We have to learn from the past and if nobody ever suffered a concussion, then we'd never know their long-term effects in the first place. Players now know the risks and continue to play so I think it will be tough to prove that any information was purposely kept away from the players.

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#38 Marsh
November 28 2013, 05:13PM
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The lawsuit suggests taking hitting (including obviously fighting) out of the game. I wonder how much further the game would have to change to eliminate concussions. Would it take reducing shoulder and elbow pads to near minimal? Would hitting stop if a player wasn't wearing upper body armour (except helmets)? What would the consequence of that be. More arm/shoulder injuries? Is that preferable to concussions?

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#39 coachedpotatoe
November 28 2013, 05:32PM
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Did the NHL know that concussions were bad absolutely they knew. I was a dumb high school trainer back in the late 1970's and I knew after one first aid course. That did not stop players and coaches from ignoring my advice if I thought a student had one. How much did they know? That's the real question? Obviously not as much as we do now.

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#40 finn_fann
November 28 2013, 06:18PM
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@coachedpotatoe

I get what you're saying, people go against medical advice all the time. But that's why the league has started putting rules and procedures in place - now it isn't anybody's judgment call, and it isn't up to the medical staff or trainers to be responsible for convincing coaches and players that it's a bad idea to go on the ice with a concussion.

The question then isn't so much whether players and coaches should have known better or made better choices, but whether the NHL had the power and opportunity to cut down on stupid self-inflicted injuries, but failed to do so through an act of negligence. People citing that "we just didn't know" about the severity of concussions may be speaking honestly for themselves, but this does not reflect what was common knowledge of doctors - or apparently high school trainers - and gives the NHL a free pass where they really don't deserve one.

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