By John Burt, Associated PressNHL players have been blamed for a spike in concussion rates across the league, but the issue is being examined more closely, said Dr. Thomas Fuchs, a University of Michigan neuropsychiatrist and director of the Michigan Sports Concussion Institute.
The league is working with the NCAA and other stakeholders to improve concussion prevention, he said, but it needs to be careful not to get distracted by the problem.
The National Hockey League has been accused of not doing enough to protect its players, with the league suspended from the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and 2016, while the National Hockey Association Players Association (NHLPA) has called for more comprehensive efforts to reduce the rate of concussions among players.NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says he hopes the NHLPA can convince other leagues to work with the NHL and the NCAA to reduce concussion rates.
He also says the NHL is working to identify players with concussion histories who could potentially be eligible for medical assistance under the federal law known as the Concussion Insurance Rule.
The NFL is one of the more aggressive teams in testing players, but that is likely to change in the coming years.
The NFL announced this week that it would test all of its players in 2017.
The league also plans to conduct more rigorous testing of all its players for the foreseeable future.
Players who don’t test positive are eligible for the concussion insurance rule.
“The NFL and the NHL are going to work together and do what we can to make sure we don’t put the players at risk,” Bettman said during a conference call with reporters on Monday.
“We’re going to get our numbers in, and that’s going to take some time, and it’s going in very, very carefully, to make a very, consistent determination.”
The NHL is also conducting a study to determine whether other sports should adopt the concussion prevention rule, and has also begun the process of testing players in the Olympics.
The NHL says it is still trying to determine the cost and timing of the study.
“It’s not something that we’re doing just because we want to put the money out there,” Bettmansaid.
“We’re looking at it to make some recommendations to make it work.”
The NFL said the study will take two years, and there are no plans to expand the study to include other sports.
The NHLPA said it is also working with health authorities to figure out how to prevent concussions at a grassroots level.
The N.H.L. said in a statement it was “proud” of the work of its concussion experts and is committed to helping ensure all athletes are fully informed about the risks of concussive head injuries.”NHL officials are also working closely with the N.B.A., NCAA, National Hockey Players Association and the NFL to address the issue,” the statement said.
The NBA and N.F.L., however, have already announced changes to the way they evaluate players for head injuries, including a ban on contact sports, and the NLL has said it will test players at all levels in 2018.
“When we’re talking about what we’re going do to reduce concussions, we’re not looking at how much money we’re spending on headgear, but how we’re getting our players tested and trained,” Fuchs said.
He said the NHL has the expertise and experience to do a better job of preventing concussions.
The most recent data from the National Institute of Health on the concussion rate in the U.S. show that the rate has declined steadily in recent years, although the overall rate remains elevated.
The number of people who die from head injuries in the United States is up dramatically from the 1980s and 1990s, but overall the rate is at a low point.
Fuchs said the NFL and NHL need to work more closely with sports medicine specialists, including neurologists, to determine what’s causing the rate to increase.
He also said the league needs to do more to educate its players about the dangers of concussed play.
“This is a very important issue for the game and for our sport,” he said.
“What we can do is work to make our sport safer, to help prevent the occurrence of concussion in the first place, and then work to do things to reduce those risks.”