Theo Peckham and NHL Concussion Protocols

In today’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, defenseman Theo Peckham suffered what Tom Renney confirmed as a concussion on a hit from Rick Nash. In and of itself, that’s unfortunate but not uncommon in the NHL.

What’s more interesting is the fact that between taking the hit and being removed from the game, Peckham played five more shifts.

Does the fact that Peckham was allowed to play after taking the hit from Nash show that the Oilers are ignoring the NHL’s official concussion protocols?

It all depends on whether or not the NHL Protocol for Concussion Evaluation and Management was activated. Last March, the league overhauled the protocol, requiring a player to be removed under the following conditions:

The NHL Protocol for Concussion Evaluation and Management has been revised in three areas: 1) Mandatory removal from play if a player reports any listed symptoms or shows any listed signs (loss of consciousness … Motor incoordination/balance problems … Slow to get up following a hit to the head … blank or vacant look … Disorientation (unsure where he is) … Clutching the head after a hit … Visible facial injury in combination with any of the above).

Assuming that the signs/symptoms weren’t there for Peckham, that leaves us a couple of other potential triggers. Peckham was slow to get up, but Nash’s hit wasn’t to his head; Nash hit the body and Peckham’s head hit the boards. He also didn’t clutch his head, because he was sort of spread-eagled on the ice after the play.

Now, those strike me as rather thin hairs to be splitting; it seems to me that because Peckham stayed down so long after visibly hammering his head on the boards, the NHL’s concussion protocol should have been triggered. Then again, I’m looking at reports on the concussion protocol (albeit from the Maple Leafs’ official website) rather than the protocol itself, and what I don’t know about head injuries is a lot, so it’s certainly possible I’m missing something.

What does seem clear is that the NHL’s concussion protocol wasn’t activated in this case, because the protocol requires a player suspected of suffering a concussion to go to the “quiet room” and be assessed by the team doctor using version two of the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (also known as SCAT 2). It takes quite some time to go through the test; if you don’t believe me on that you’re welcome to look at the test in its entirety (there’s a shorter explanation here).

Theo Peckham was on the ice roughly two and a half minutes later in the game after taking the Nash hit. In real time (starting from the moment Peckham started down the tunnel to the moment he was back in camera view on the ice), Peckham was gone for less than five minutes. It strikes me as implausible that he met with the doctor, went through the entire test, was cleared to return, and then got back on the ice in that span of time.  Fifteen minutes is the commonly cited time frame required.

Of course, this is hardly new to the NHL; almost immediately following the implementation of the modified concussion protocol came complaints that teams were not following the new rules.  It does make me wonder, however, if the Oilers’ medical staff responded correctly to the hit on Peckham, and if so how he could be allowed to come back and play five shifts before being ruled out with a concussion.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    I want to say “Pecker seemed fined when he creamed Vandevelde’s face in Gene’s interview” after the game but…

    I agree with you, although he looked fine after the game, were the proper methods used? I don’t know but something seems fishy.

    Edit, almost forgot, FIST!!!

  • Craig1981

    Nash hit him when he was in an injury prone position. That is when some one needs to step up and square off with Nash. I don’t agree the Oil are too small, but I do think the need learn how to get tougher. Sadly I’m not sure if you can learn that.

    • Nash intent was not to hurt him. Hes not known as a dirty player. Not all unfortuate plays into the corner need to be resolved with a nucleur response. I think the Oil felt the same cause they never seemed to see a need to go after him.

      • Craig1981

        I don`t think Nash meant to injure him, but he still hit him when he was in a bad position. That what they needed to resppond to. Someone stepping up and squareing off with Nash isn`t a `nucleur response`. Its just the correct response.

        • Craig1981

          And what does that response do exactly? It’s not going to bring the player back and it’s not like Nash spent the rest of the game trying to drive Oiler players through the boards.

          Aside from that, it looked like Nash tried to bail out of the hit when he saw Peckham falling and couldn’t quite do it.

          • Craig1981

            If your playing competive hockey and you know if you give one of those hits you will have to spend 5 in the box plus take a few punches to the face,…trust me, you questiion doing it.
            Thw kid that got picked on in school wasn`t always the smallest one, just the one that didnt fight back

  • My first thought when he went into the boards was that he might be concussed. Couple that with the fact that this is not his first concussion and I really don’t know why the protocol wasn’t followed. Gambling with a young player’s health is just foolish.

    • Starving Student

      My thoughts exactly. Aside from the obvious danger in ignoring head injuries (just ask Chris Pronger), Theo is a developing defensemen that the organization has spent years on. He’s slowly rounding into form that still shows that he has the potential to be a solid 5-6 Dman, why send him back out in a game that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things? Makes you wonder how much self-harm these players inflict on themselves when they ignore head trauma.

    • Starving Student

      My thoughts exactly. Aside from the obvious danger in ignoring head injuries (just ask Chris Pronger), Theo is a developing defensemen that the organization has spent years on. He’s slowly rounding into form that still shows that he has the potential to be a solid 5-6 Dman, why send him back out in a game that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things? Makes you wonder how much self-harm these players inflict on themselves when they ignore head trauma.

  • I understand the team philosphy of winning the game as a way to respond to the cheap shots. But the final score does little to the season how about just once grabbing the guy and start chucking.send a message.maybe next year guys wont skate acroos the rink at full speed to try and take the head off one of the young stars

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      With an incident like this where it’s two players competing for the puck and one slips and puts himself into a terrible spot, much like Hall did a week ago, it’s a bad situation but hardly one that calls for that kind of response. What Nash did wasn’t okay but it wasn’t dirty like Keith, he was doing what he’s always doing and that’s using the body to win the puck battle.

      I would have argued that a physical push back was needed more so in the game against the Coyotes last Sunday when Eberle was repeatedly pushed around. Peckham’s incident was more accidental.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    The NHL concussion protocol is a joke. Watch a game every night and you’ll see many times that this rule is just there in writing and isn’t enforced.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Not to compare Sid to Theo, as Theo is vastly superior…but the situation reminds me of Sid’s situation, too.

    1) A hit to the head where everyone but that player’s team could tell that player had sustained serious trauma to the head, and was suffering signs of a head injury.

    2) Ignoring the signs and symptoms and sending the player back out there to play.

    3) Player taking another hit to the head, following the first. Now the player CAN’T play.


    Are they that stupid, or are they gleefully ignoring the facts to their team’s (dis)advantage? The signs are there, obvious to everyone watching, as you described in your article, Jonathan!

  • Bucknuck

    One could argue that since refs haven’t been doing much about anything including “head-hunting” (excepting the Duncan Keith’s hit on Vancouver’s Golden Boy), that the message is pretty clear that the NHL is only playing lip service to make fans feel a little better. Far too many dangerous plays have been getting “let go” in my opinion.

  • Craig1981

    @ Willis

    I understand your points here but unless we know all the facts here (Including the most important- Did he even shows the early warning signs to even warrant a concussion test. Leaving the ice could have been for equipment issue or a shoulder or an ankle) then maybe we should have spent a little more time with some interviews and questions before running the medical and training staff.

    Right now it looks like we have a conclusion on maybe 25% of the facts. Not your best efforts.

    • I didn’t “run” the medical/training staff. I took pains to explain my reasoning here, and assumed that none of the concussion signs/symptoms were present – leaving open the question of whether or not the hit itself (where Peckham clearly hit his head on the boards) followed by him lying spread-eagled on the ice was enough to warrant activation of the concussion protocol.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      See rule #1 of the concussion protocol, as Jonathan spelled out clearly.

      Get him tested first. That’s where you ask all those questions you mentioned.

      Not knowing the answers that should have been asked during the concussion protocol does not excuse the team from the responsibility of doing the test in the first place.

  • KHR

    This begs the question about how serious the league is about making a change in how it deals with concussions. Obviously the teams need to take care of their players and should be voluntarily putting the protocol into play, but the officials should also be tasked with invoking it and not giving a team a choice. If the official invokes the protocol due to a hit then the player responsible (intentional or not) should get a 2 min boarding call, roughing, whatever. If there is a penalty called for a hit to the head the protocol should also be immediately put into play regardless of whether or not the player shows signs of distress (I am thinking a Duncan Keith scenario here). I add the “due to a hit” as the player could get hit in the head with the puck.

  • I think it should have been enough. I would speculate that what may have happend was Peckham was being concerned more with his roster spot than his health and likely lied to the training staff about the hit and how he felt. There would be no way that if Theo said in any way shape or form that he had his bell rung that they would let him back out on the ice.

    Second I personally thought the hit was dirty! I can’t believe how this is not being looked at! Nash saw theo falling and took the time to crouch down to deliver an illegal boarding hit! If he had the time and the wherewithal to drop to his knee to deliver an illegal hit then he had time to avoid the hit all together!