Concussion Issue Becoming a Headache for NHL

After a long fight, the 2010 NFL season has finally come to a close, and many have dubbed the season The Year of the Quarterback.  But it could just as easily be referred to as The Year of the Concussion.  Played out in front of a nation full of fans, the NFL learned many tough lessons in 2010 regarding head injuries, concussions, and the health of both current and retired players.

But now, many of these same discussions and debates regarding concussions and head injuries have jumped from the football field on to the ice of the NHL.  And rightly so.

This past Monday, the Boston Bruins announced that center Marc Savard would be out for the remainder of the season and placed on IR after suffering multiple concussions in one year.  The Bruins lost Savard for their playoff run last year, and should they make the playoffs again, it will be the same story.  Savard, a two-time All-Star, was blindsided by Matt Cooke of the Penguins in March of last year, missed the playoffs, and also missed the first two months of this season.  Savard was then checked hard into the boards in Colorado on January 22nd.  Despite only being diagnosed as a “moderate” injury, it was still the second concussion for the Bruins’ center in less than 12 months.  In his fifth season as a Bruin, Savard averaged close to 90 points a season from ’05 to ’09, and managed to post ten points in his 25 games this season.

But Boston isn’t the only team in the East having head issues.

Sidney Crosby of the Penguins has been concussed and out of action since January 6th.  For more than a month now, the Penguins have struggled to cope with both Sid’s as well as a laundry list of other injuries. There are rumors in Pittsburgh that Crosby could be off the ice for as long as another month, but Penguin coaches and officials have been adamant that there is no set-in-stone schedule for the return of #87.

The Penguins began the season with a mediocre record of 9-8-2, but then went on a streak of 12 straight wins, before a plague of injuries in the start of 2011 brought the Pens back down to Earth.  The Pens have struggled with multiple injuries to some of their key contributors, but have been unable to adequately fill the void created by the absence of Sid the Kid: despite being out of commission for more than a month, Crosby still leads the Penguins in points (66), goals (32), and assists (34).

Concussions have caused both Boston and Pittsburgh to rue the loss of an All-Star for an extended period of time this season, and the NHL needs to look further into the safety and health of it’s players, in ways that the NFL is starting to.  Most major sports are inherently physical and violent in certain respects, but the NHL has a responsibility to it’s players and to it’s fans to keep these athletes protected as best it can from the devastating, and lasting, effects of a head injury.

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