02:29am Wednesday 23 October 2019

Recent NHL rule changes regulating hits to the head haven’t reduced concussion rates: study

Dr. Michael Cusimano Dr. Michael Cusimano

The study, led by Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon and concussion researcher, compared data from official game records and team injury reports before and after rules regulating head contact changed in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“The risk of suffering a concussion is still very high for these players,” said Dr. Cusimano. “Although the NHL opted to introduce rules regulating bodychecking to the head in an attempt to improve player safety, our results have found that players are still being injured at unnecessarily high rates.”

The study was published online today in the journal PLOS ONE.

A rule that made targeting an opponent’s blindside illegal was enforced in 2010-11 and then was modified in 2011-12 to encompass all intentional hits to the head. Despite these changes, the study found that the 2009-10 season had the lowest number of concussion and concussion-like symptoms.

“Either the rules need to be enforced more strictly and with more severe consequences to aggressing players and teams, or players are having difficultly adapting their playing and bodychecking style to the new rules,” Dr. Cusimano said.

More than 64 per cent of the concussions were caused by bodychecking, while only 28.4 per cent of events that led to a concussion were called “illegal” and the aggressor was given a penalty, fine or suspension.

Dr. Cusimano said that if player safety and reducing concussions is a priority, then additional changes are needed. Some of these changes include a ban on fighting, harsher penalties for those teams and players who inflict concussions, altering equipment and changes to ice size and rink environment.

Funding was provided by the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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Media contacts

For more information, or to speak to Dr. Cusimano please contact:

Kate Taylor
Communications Adviser
St. Michael’s Hospital
416-864-6060 x. 6537

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