Skip to content

Report: NHL rule changes haven’t decreased concussion rates

Jul 17, 2013, 6:15 PM EST

Max Pacioretty AP

Three years ago, the NHL tightened its rules on hits to the head in an effort to curb injuries and concussions.

According to a new study, it’s not working.

Conducted by neurosurgeon and concussion researcher Dr. Michael Cusimano of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, the study compared concussion rates before and after the NHL introduced rules against hits to the head in 2010.

“The rate of concussion did not decrease,” Cusimano said in an interview, as per CBC. “It in fact increased the first year and in the second year in the NHL it stayed stable.

“So we didn’t see a decline like I think everyone had hoped, including the NHL, who said brought in primarily for player safety.”

The amendment to rule 48 — illegal checks to the head — was introduced two years ago, at the start of the 2010-11 campaign..

From NHL.com:

Illegal checks to the head, defined as “a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted,” will now be subject to a five-minute major penalty and automatic game misconduct, as well as possible supplemental discipline if deemed appropriate by the League.

While the aim is to prevent severe injuries, like the concussions suffered last season by players such as Florida’s David Booth and Boston’s Marc Savard, hockey remains a contact sport and [Director of Officiating Terry] Gregson made clear that just because there is contact to the head, it doesn’t automatically make for an illegal hit.

Cusimano suggests the rule isn’t working is because of how it was originally worded — and how it’s been called.

“Part of it’s the way the rule’s written. Part of it’s the way the rule is enforced. Part of it’s the penalties associated with the rule,” he explained. “And part of it is that concussions are also coming from other causes like fighting, that is still allowed.”

Another issue, it seems, is the sheer physicality of the sport.

Cusimano and his researchers said 64 per cent of NHL concussions were caused by bodychecking, while 28 per cent of concussions — and 28 per cent of suspected concussions — were caused by illegal incidents that resulted in a penalty, fine or suspension.

As for solutions, Cusimano came up with four suggestions: banning fighting, stiffer penalties for teams/players that cause concussions, changing equipment regulations and looking at different ice sizes and dimensions.

Latest Posts
  1. Devils’ Jagr battled the flu and mumps

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:35 PM EST

    JaromirJagr Getty Images

    Expected to play Wednesday against the Leafs

  2. Lombardi on waiving Richards: ‘These are the tough decisions you’ve got to make’

    Jan 26, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Dean Lombardi Getty Images

    Teams have till noon eastern time Tuesday to place a claim on the forward.

  3. Avs without Erik Johnson for up to eight weeks

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:16 PM EST

    Erik Johnson Getty Images

    The Avalanche are trying to claw their way into the playoffs.

  4. Wild send Kuemper to AHL on conditioning stint

    Jan 26, 2015, 5:52 PM EST

    Darcy Kuemper Getty Images

    Minnesota had three healthy goaltenders on its roster.

  5. Leafs captain Phaneuf week-to-week with upper-body injury

    Jan 26, 2015, 4:22 PM EST

    Milan Michalek Dion Phaneuf AP

    This might be the result of fighting in back-to-back games.

  6. Sabres suspend Zadorov, lose Neuvirth

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:12 PM EST

    Nikita Zadorov Getty Images

    The post-All-Star Game portion of the season isn’t starting any better for Buffalo.

  7. Lamoriello indicates time behind bench is winding down

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:21 PM EST

    New Jersey Devils Vs. Boston Bruins At TD Garden Getty Images

    He’s been overseeing co-coaches Adam Oates and Scott Stevens.

  8. Lightning concerned about Johnson’s lower-body injury

    Jan 26, 2015, 1:30 PM EST

    Tyler johnson Getty Images

    He didn’t end up playing in the All-Star Game.

  9. L.A. Sorry? Kings waive Mike Richards

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:31 PM EST

    Mike Richards Getty Images

    Remember, the club opted not to amnesty his contract last June.

  10. Kevin Bieksa has hand surgery, will miss 6-8 weeks

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:23 PM EST

    Kevin Bieksa Getty Images

    Canucks will give Frank Corrado a chance to show what he can do.

  11. Johansen, Karlsson, Parise named NHL’s three stars of the week

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:12 PM EST

    2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game Getty Images

    Columbus’ star center is having a nice little run at the moment.

  12. Ovechkin finally gets car once Honda learns why he wanted it so badly

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:23 AM EST

    Alex Ovechkin Getty Images

    “Everybody felt like I just want a car to drive it.”

  13. KHL president: Russia focuses on World Championships, not World Cup in 2016

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:55 AM EST

    2014 Paralympic Winter Games - Previews: Day 0 Getty Images

    Ilya Kovalchuk deemed it a “worthy tournament,” though.

  14. ‘Crippling and potentially historic’ blizzard threatens cancellations Tuesday

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:51 AM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptq1nmuzn2y4yzg1mdq0nzk3zjq2m2mwnjdkmdmxzgq3 AP

    Including an intriguing game between the Islanders and Rangers.

  15. Blue Jackets proud as Columbus shows it’s a hockey town

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:49 PM EST

    2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition - Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge Getty Images

    “We’re so proud of our city for showing that hockey is such a big deal here.”

Featured video

Who will excite most in All-Star game?
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. K. Letang (3800)
  2. S. Crosby (3182)
  3. E. Malkin (3071)
  4. P. Hornqvist (3047)
  5. C. Price (2970)
  1. J. Ortio (2886)
  2. S. Bobrovsky (2767)
  3. P. Rinne (1924)
  4. J. Toews (1830)
  5. Z. Rinaldo (1830)