Hockey concussions worse than thought

  • Zdeno Chara injures Max Pacioretty in 2011.
    Zdeno Chara injures Max Pacioretty in 2011.
    Photo credit: John Kenney, Gazette

Concussions continue to give hockey a migraine headache.

A new study shows the concussion epidemic in hockey is worse than previously believed.

The study focused on players with two Canadian university teams last season, with medical doctors behind the bench for games.

A key finding is that the occurrence of concussions appears to be much higher than reported.

Interestingly, the incidence of concussions was higher for females than males. In fact, it was five times greater in females and three times greater in males.

Other findings showed that nearly 70 per cent of concussions were caused by head shots and more than 80 per cent of those hits were deliberate.


So much for all the work being done to curb head shots.

It is common knowledge that repeated concussions can cause permanent damage to the brain.

Moving forward, much more has to be done in educating coaches, trainers, players and parents about how to recognize concussion symptoms.

So where does hockey, and other contact sports, go from here?

Dr. Paul Echlin, the sports medicine specialist who headed the study, said the key is to prevent repeated concussions, which can cause permanent brain damage without proper recovery time.

This is not a problem that is not going away with a couple of aspirins.


  1. By Lord of the Rinks

    It is important to note that the concussion epidemic extends way beyond high level minor hockey and the pros. A few years ago, in non-contact oldtimers hockey, right here in the West Island, I was the victim of a deliberate attempt to injure in the form of an elbow to the face which resulted in a severe concussion. Imagine, a 40-something hockey Dad, playing only for fun and exercise, returning home to his young family post-game with a lot more more baggage than sweaty hockey gear. And for what.
    The play itself, was cleverly disguised, on a defensive zone face-off, my opponent pulled the puck back , dropped his stick, swerved around ostensibly to pick it up, and delivered a full force elbow to the middle of my face. The vicious blow landed just below my half-visor and knocked me down and resulted in a fair amount of blood. I heard him say something about just trying to pick up his stick, not done on purpose, and so on. Yeah right. I think I know the difference between incidental contact and a full fledged attempt to decapitate another player. Lucky for him, everyone including the lone referee, was focused on the puck, well away from the incident, and he did not even recieve a minor penalty on the play. As for me, I knew I was in big trouble, left the ice immediately, struggled to get myself home, and tried to figure what to do next. I knew I had a severe concussion as I had a wicked headache which refused to go away. I also realized that my internal plastic mouthguard, which served to cushion the force of the blow, probably saved me from a much more severe fate.
    The next few months were a major struggle, lots of time spent in the healthcare system, medical visits, medication, a brain scan, and so on. And yet the headache persisted. I was able to function, but barely. I could drive, and would regularly drive past the Dep arriving home empty handed when my only task for the day was to pick up milk. Worst of all, was the uncertainty, is this how I would spend the rest of my life, all through my 40′s, 50′s and beyond. Simple tasks like reading a newspaper became a big challenge, read for 15 minutes. rest for 15 minutes, that sort of thing. Quality time with my wife and two young children was also not like before. Needless to say, my hockey season was over, as was ever playing any kind of competitive hockey again except with good friends and hockey buddies where there existed a high level of trust, and respect for one’s opponent! The image of Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner, smashing a solid hard plastic elbow pad on the table to make a point about player safety, regularly came to mind.
    And a few years later, the big incident between Chara hit on Max Paccioretty. The parallels were scary. The biggest player, and probably the strongest, player in the league, deleberately cheap shots a mid-sized player for no apparent reason, and gets off scot free with no suspension whatsoever in one of the most violent incidents in NHL history. It really afffected me, I was furious, and yes I absolutely hate Chara and the Bruins to this day.
    I don’t think my life was ever in danger, however, as was the case for Max, but neither was I a super- fit 23 year old pro athlete. But at least Max had an enormous supporting cast, thousands of fans, teammates, even his owner who famously stood up for him. I was quickly and unceremoniously forgotten, never receiving any feedback from anyone in the league, never got an apology or inquiry of any sort from anyone, old hockey stars don’t die you know, they just fade away I suppose, as a famous U.S. General once said.
    In any event, I finally did recover, after 3 or 4 months, my headache did disappear, and slowly but surely my life returned to a sense of normalcy. But I often wondered what I had done to deserve such a vicious act, all I had done that day was score a couple of goals on a Sunday morning in a recreational hockey league. And what about my young family, I was not much of a husband or parent for those many months. And, what about the future, the early onset of this or that disease as a result of concussions we hear so much about. In conclusion, If you play recreational or old-timer hockey, don’t think it cannot happen to you, wear a full face visor or worst case, a half visor along with a mouth guard. If you are a hot head, or a tough guy, and cheap shots are part of your repertoire, how about NOT targeting the head under any circumstances, ever, as we know full well, the consequences can be severe, long-term, and in some cases, life threatening. But, if you do commit such a violent and egregious act, how about being man enough to admit it.
    Lord of the Rinks


    I firmly believe that most concussions go unreported. I have been at the arena too long and for too often seen kids with concussion like symptons hurried away home by parents who are in denial. It happens more than people realize. Many parents whose kids play at an elite level have a tough time dealing with their child being out of action for a prolonged period.

    The best solution is contact only at elite levels (PEEWEE AAA and BANTAM AAA). Let the kids grow into their bodies and develop their skill. This whole nonsense about teaching kids when they are young is BS. There is too wide a level of calibre at a young age for this to work and it will turn people away from the game. Once the kid is older it can be their decision and not the parents.

  3. By Johnie Terp

    Although concussions usually are caused by a blow to the head, they can also occur when the head and upper body are violently shaken. These injuries can cause a loss of consciousness, but most concussions do not. Because of this, some people have concussions and don’t realize it. ..`-*

    Please do find out more about our own blog

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