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Gary Bettman, NHL Board of Governors discuss hits to the head, concussions

Jan 30, 2011, 1:36 PM EST

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Gary Bettman AP

Concussions aren’t an issue that will go away over night. Even a significant rule change won’t curb them altogether, as the speed of the game and size of the players mean that there’s a certain amount of injuries that can be deemed a part of the sport.

That being said, the NHL should still do whatever it can to limit such injuries. A big part of stemming the tide is open communication and compiling information, so it’s no surprise that head injuries were a big topic of discussion at the NHL Board of Governors Meeting during this All-Star weekend.

Gary Bettman addressed the meetings and the league’s findings on such hits. Of course, he didn’t provide actual numbers on the issue to the media, so to some extent he could write his own narrative during the press conference.

So keeping in mind that he didn’t give concrete information, Bettman admitted that concussions increased this season but claimed that blindside hits are down. The NHL’s commissioner says that accidental hits have gone up substantially in 2010-11.

“It appears, and again I want to emphasize that it is a preliminary, the increase in concussions appear to be in the area of accidental and inadvertent situations as most did not involve any contact with the victim’s head by an opponent,” Bettman said prior to the Honda SuperSkills competition at the RBC Center on Saturday. “I’m not saying no concussions came from hits to the head, but it appears the increase is coming from somewhere else.”

Bettman said most of the concussions being analyzed this season are a result from when players collide with each other or when they “were hit legally and without head contact after which their heads have struck either the ice, the boards or the glass.”

He said that these accidental hits that cause concussions have increased man-games lost threefold.

Bettman, though, stressed that the new rule (Rule 48) that renders illegal any lateral or blindside hits where the head is the principal area of target has resulted in fewer concussions caused by blindside hits this season.

Brian Burke said that Sidney Crosby’s concussion dictated the focus on head injuries, stating that it wouldn’t be such a hot topic if Maple Leafs plugger Mike Brown was the biggest name dealing with such issues. While I agree that Crosby’s problems shined a harsh light on concussions, it’s silly to ignore the fact that head injuries are the focus of discussions in nearly every major sport – even “less violent” ones such as soccer and baseball.

Obviously this is far from the last we’ll hear of concussions, so we’ll let you know when/if big changes take place. In the mean time, take a look at video of Bettman’s press conference.

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