Following a recent threat by Air Canada to pull its sponsorship dollars, the NHL announced a revision of the NHL Protocol for Concussion Evaluation and Management. The Protocol now requires:
- Mandatory removal from play if a player reports any listed symptoms or shows any listed signs of a concussion;
- Examination by the team physician in a quiet place free from distraction and use of "an acute evaluation tool" by team physicians rather than a quick rinkside assessment.
- The NHL board will be asked to elevate the standard for holding a team and its coach accountable if there are a number of "repeat offenders" with regard to supplementary discipline.
- A safety engineering firm will evaluate all 30 arenas and determine what changes, if any, can and should be made to enhance player safety.
- A ‘blue-ribbon’ committee of former players including Brendan Shanahan, Rob Blake, Steve Yzerman and Joe Nieuwendyk will look at safety issues.
The Ontario Hockey League has been a proponent of concussion education. Its president David Branch gives a nod to the NHL revisions but emphasizes that it does not go as far as the OHL which penalizes all hits to the head. Also, the OHL has circulated a DVD to its players. OHL said:
The message to players is: You have to recognize these symptoms and you have an obligation to tell your team . . . We’ve got a problem with head injuries in our game and you are part – part – of the solution. It wasn’t intended to scare them. It wasn’t a threat – that we plan to suspend you. It was intended to educate, to get buy-in from the players, and to support the players.”
Thumbs up to Air Canada and the professional hockey leagues. As they encourage education about brain injuries education, their fans will also better understand the seriousness of concussions.