October 21, 2017

Are Hockey Rule Changes Causing More Concussions?


Concussions are a problem in all sports, and Sidney Crosby has vaulted the NHL to the top of the player safety discussions. But what’s causing all of the concussions and why are so many happening now as opposed to back when players didn’t even wear helmets?

I’d like to switch gears from SEO and examine some potential causes of the increase in concussions – specifically whether or not the recent rule changes are responsible and what can be done to reduce the amount of concussions in Hockey.

First we need to figure out if we’re really seeing more concussions in the game of if we’re just getting better at diagnosing head injuries that we couldn’t several years ago. That’s a very sound theory and it could have lots of truth – but even if it is true it still presents a problem: Diagnosed or not, the concussions are still happening and it’s in everybody’s best interest to prevent them.

Could the cause of concussions be staring back at Gary Bettman from the Mirror?

I’d like to take a look at some of Bettman’s asinine screw ups rule changes and see if they could have an effect. Specifically I want to examine the following rule changes:

  1. Removal of the redline and 2 line pass
  2. The trapezoid behind the net
  3. Obstruction penalties

Let’s start with the Trapezoid Rule that doesn’t let goalies play the puck behind the net. I know what you’re saying, “how can that have anything to do with head injuries.” If you’ve ever played defense in a check hockey league though, you’ll instantly get it.

If the goalie can’t play the puck behind the net on dump ins (usually a dump and chase situation) somebody else has to. That somebody is the defenseman. The problem is, it’s a dump in. So while he’s attempting to play the puck, there’s an opposing forward getting a 90-foot head start to drive him into the boards as soon as he does. When the goalie could play it, he wouldn’t get hit. That D man is fair game though, and over the course of the season blueliners have taken way more hits than necessary. Those hits are hard and add up quickly.

So what about the removal of the red line and 2 line pass? The goal here was to speed up the game (not the running time, but the actual pace of play,) let players skate more, and increase scoring.) It’s done that. But when you have players moving a lot faster through the neutral zone it means the hits get that much harder too. It’s simple F=MA math. Players moving faster with more room generate more force.

The same goes for obstruction. Let’s go back to our dump and chase play above. In the early 90’s your forwards would slow up those oncoming checkers by getting in their way. Now, that’s a penalty called obstruction. Prior to 1995 if you got to the ice in front of somebody first, you were entitled to it. It doesn’t work that way anymore and it’s adding to the faster players hit harder issue.

Note: While not technically a rule change, the NHL’s attempt to discourage fighting has left players without fear of consequence for head hits, also adding to the issue

But it’s not just rules, equipment plays a role too.

I’m going to make this next point as concrete as possible.

Players such as Brendan Shanahan wore shoulder pads like this as recent as 2 years ago.

Most current NHL players however wear hard plastic shoulder pads that look like this.

If anything, there’s a huge part of the problem in itself. In football shoulder pads are weapons. In Hockey, they started out as protection but quickly turned into weapons. I’m willing to bet if everybody went back to the old Coopers (which they still make today) then I’m sure we’d see a drastic decrease in head injuries.

I don’t think there’s one single cause contributing to concussions in the NHL (unless you count Gary Bettman as that single cause) but I do thin all of the recent “innovations” in the game have played their part in adding to the concussion mess. What do you think? More importantly, what do you think the NHL should do about it?

About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com

Comments

  1. I play hockey in the ACHA and i could not agree more about the trapezoid rule in the NHL. Being a defenseman, my tender saves my ass all the time from forwards flying in with rock hard shoulder pads that would otherwise nail me in the face. I’m 5’7”.

  2. You are right on point on all your statements. But I think the size of the equipment and how hard it is , is the major cause . The pads should be made to protect and not as a weapon as you point out . One other point is that I think with the glass they use now it doesn’t absorb much at impact so the players are receiving much more of a jolt . . My Pitts burgh Penguins have 4 guys out right now with concussions and 3 of them are defensemen . I could start another rant about the humungous goalie equipment or the non wood sticks…but i’m gonna go to bed…be well

  3. I agree with you 100% on the seamless glass Kenn. I think older rinks (like Joe Louis) are actually much better for player safety. I think Montreal has one of the worst rinks for head injuries. The more forgiving glass seems much safer. If I were an NHL player in a rink with the harder glass I’d be telling my owner that I don’t feel safe playing in it.

  4. Those shoulder pads are from the 90s. no pros were those pads today

  5. I also play in the ACHA and im a defensemen. Im 6 ft 2 150 and if my goalies werent playing the biscuit id be donzo.