Canada's leading concussion expert Dr Charles Tator uses peach jello mold of brain in talking with kids to get them to understand the fragility of the brain.
Tator’s campaign against hockey concussions – he became the Anti-Cherry after accusing Don Cherry, Hockey Night In Canada’s iconic Coach’s Corner of preaching “aggressive, lack-of-respect hockey” – came to Ottawa on Wednesday as part of the first Hockey Safety Summit.
The event, held by Reebok-CCM Hockey and the University of Ottawa’s Neurotrauma Impact Science Laboratory, featured representatives from various leagues, including the National Hockey League, Hockey Canada and the academic world, but it was Tator who stole the show with a passionate call for action on the No. 1 hockey injury.
“I’m out to protect the brain,” he told the gathering.” It’s so marvellous a structure – but so fragile.”
The point of concussions, he argued, is that so very little is known or understood about their immediate or long-term impact. Crosby, Tator suggested, may even have suffered previous concussions as a minor-league player. No one knows. And, he added, “No one can predict what the outcome will be.”
“It has captured the attention of a lot of people who weren’t paying attention to this point,” Tator said. Crosby’s situation, he believes, has both magnified the issue in the public mind and changed the talk of concussion from a debate over what they are to “How can we turn this around?”
Most lesser leagues and minor hockey have taken steps to cut down on head shots, several organizations banning them outright, but everyone in the game is acutely aware that youngsters take their lead from their NHL heroes and will attempt to copy whatever they see on television.
So far, the NHL has only instituted a new rule on blindside hits to the head. The league sent a representative to the Summit, but refused comment. There is speculation, however, that changes may soon be forthcoming, including on-the-spot dressing-room checks done on NHL players rather than checking them out on the bench, as is currently done.
Not to be a ass. But that's the attraction for some. The big head removing hit. Maybe just maybe the OHL does it right. The keep your head up argument is getting old with armour the players are wearing today.
Well, this is one area in which the League shouldn't be swayed by fan fervor. I like big hits and all, but destructive type hits should not be an objective of a game of hockey. There have to be acceptable limits, something that all sports have.
I wonder if the findings that Probert had "punch drunk" brain damage is going to influence the discussion. I still dont see how head injuries can be dealt with seriously without doing something about the bare-fisted hammer blows to the head delivered during fights.
They have to completely remove head shots, period. With the speed of the game and strength of the players currently, there's no way this can be avoided. The loss of Crosby has already been a negative for the league but think of it if he misses the playoffs and there's no Crosby v Ovechkin as a result. It would make the league and NHLPA look completely impotent and hypocritical.
There needs to be more consistency in how penalties are called. I also think emphasizing clean hip checks would be one way to maintain hitting and remove direct head contact.
I love the CTE research, but I want to see them compared to more "control" brains of people who played sports for various lengths of time (just as kids, just as adults in rec situations, recreationally throughout life) before they start drawing real conclusions from this.
And Don - there is no way to take out all things that cause concussions from hockey, to start with, and eliminating "headshots" is not nearly as clear as you think. Do you outlaw all contact with the head? What if it's a situation like Crosby where there person who got hit is at fault and the other player had no opportunity to avoid him? Even the high-sticking rules have some responsibility for the players around a shooter. Plus none of that eliminates head vs. boards or head vs. ice injuries, which is where a good number of concussions come from.
There have been a number of recent studies on the frequency of concussions in soccer, and the numbers being cited are astoundingly high given the perception of soccer as a relatively safe sport.
I don't believe it is possible to be serious about stamping out "most" head injuries in hockey without fundamentally altering the nature of the game. It just won't be the same game if head hits and fighting are zero-tolerance outlawed.
Not saying worse or better - just really really different.
What about the New Rules?
This is an intriguing question raised by one Hall-of-Famer who prefers not to go public, fearing the sort of backlash that followed Mario Lemieux’s tirade in which he accused the league of allowing a match between his Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders to disintegrate into a “travesty.”
“Is it just a coincidence?” the one-time star asks. “But ever since they brought in those new rules, we’ve had an incredible run of concussions and suspensions against players taking runs at other players’ heads.”
The new rules, he says, were brought in for reasons everyone is aware of – to speed up a game that had become hopelessly bogged down in clutch-and-grab interference tactics.
“Now you have everybody looking for that long breakaway pass up the middle,” he says. “And you have a defence unable to defend, because they can no longer slow anyone up.”
The inability of the defence to grab on to players enough to slow matters down, he says, has led to a number of significant changes in the game. One is that the collisions are fiercer than before the lockout. The other is that, with the defence held back by the rules, it now falls on forwards to deliver many of the hits previously left to the defence – some of those hits ill-considered and often coming at dangerous angles, including from behind.
So what does he want, to bring back rampant interference so that players don't get killed by suicide passing?
He's putting the blame in the wrong place. It's the players' responsibility to not kill each other, and when one does cross the line it's the league's responsibility to punish accordingly. As long as they let swine like Cooke get away with what they do, this problem will persist. If the problem is players hitting each other in dangerous ways, then punish them for doing it. Don't try to murder other aspects of the game in a misguided effort to stop it from happening.
Monday, a representative from the Easton-Bell sporting goods company gave him an early anniversary present: the prototype of a "pitchers helmet" inspired by Sandberg's near fatal accident.
Armed with an increasing body of alarming medical research on the scope of brain injuries, the sports world aggressively has begun to confront the issue of improved safety equipment for the head - whether it's for NFL players or youth sports athletes. The goal not only is to prevent sudden injuries, like the one Sandberg suffered, but also limit unseen brain trauma that might not become apparent for decades.
That's why Monday's presentation of a new helmet innovation was attended by the national president of Little League Baseball as well as the executive director of CIF, the governing body for California's high school sports.
Standing in the lobby of the Easton-Bell technology center in Scotts Valley, Sandberg and his parents demonstrated how the so-called "pitchers helmet" works.
It's essentially a padded band that slips comfortably over a baseball cap. The prototype weighs about 5½ ounces and has the look and feel of a bicycle helmet with the top cut off.
The helmet is designed to protect the pitcher from line drives that come screaming back from the batter's box. (Sandberg said the ball that nearly ended his life was traveling 130 mph.)
During the creation of the pitchers helmet, designers at Easton-Bell's helmet technology center - known in-house as "The Dome" - studied film of more than 5,000 pitchers from delivery to follow-through with an eye toward which parts of the head were most vulnerable to injury.
Among those tracking its development is Stephen Keener, the president and chief executive officer for Little League Baseball. Keener said the helmet will be considered for mandatory use in Little League depending on the results of future field tests. Noting that his own son is now a college pitcher, he said "I hold my breath when he's out there on the mound."
I'm no doctor, but I personally think equipment is to blame in many of these situations -- not the shoulder or elbow pads, but the helmets themselves. A concussion happens when the head has to suddenly move (or stop moving), which forces the brain to hit the inside of the skull. To me, the most logical way to avoid a concussion is to ease the movement of the head (accelerate/decelerate slower).
I'm an avid hockey player and have played foootball, so I've worn both helmets, and the difference is night & day. You can really tell that hockey helmets are designed to prevent skull fractures, while football helmets are much more geared towards concussions.
Football helmets are 1-piece hard plastic, and the space between your head and the plastic is a combination of relatively soft foam (but not soft enough for you to hit the plastic) and air pockets that are inflated like a basketball to ensure a snug fit. They do weigh a significant amount more than hockey helmets, but I'd imagine most of that weight is in the thickness of the plastic. When you get hit in the head, the helmet takes most of the brunt of the hit.
Hockey helmets on the other hand tend to fit much more snug to the head. The space between your head and the plastic is much smaller (as compared to a football helmet) and filled with extremely hard foam, and some of the newer ones have some soft foam "inserts".
When you get hit, your neck feels it a lot more, as the helmet doesn't really absorb any of the energy, it just spreads it out over the entire head. That's great for pucks, not great for shoulders or your head hitting immovable objects.
I was in a hockey store recently, saw some of the newer gear that Bauer was putting out, and it's basically all the same, advertising how some "space age" material that's about 3 milimetres thick, inserted into key spots of the helmet are going to prevent concussions. Call me crazy, but I don't see how inserting key compressable parts of the helmet are going to prevent concussions more than inserting foam that is soft enough to cushion the blow almost, but not quite to the point of hitting the inside of the helmet. Throw football helmets on hockey players, and I think you see most of these concussions go away.
A few weeks ago, I read about the suicide of Dave Duerson, a former all-pro safety with the Chicago Bears. He was 50. In recent years, Mr. Duerson had worked with the NFL players' union, dealing with retired players and their physical ailments, head injuries among them, and reading their doctors' reports. He had begun to have trouble himself remembering names and putting words together. Then, one day he shot himself, not in the head but the chest, so as to preserve his brain intact for future examination, bequeathing it to the NFL's brain bank.