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NHL discovers accidents lead to increase in concussions

RALEIGH, N.C. – Sidney Crosby is hardly the only NHL player felled by a concussion this season. In fact, he has lots of unwanted company.

The NHL board of governors received a detailed preliminary report Saturday during All-Star weekend that shows the number of concussions is trending up. What might be surprising is that the culprit appears to be accidental hits and not illegal blows to the head.

“We’ve seen players suffer concussions this season when they’ve stumbled into the boards or other players without any contact at all,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We’ve seen players suffer concussions when struck by pucks in the head, we’ve seen players concussed when they collide with teammates, and when they were hit legally and without head contact after which their heads have struck either the ice or the boards or the glass.

“The biggest increase in instances of concussions this season and the biggest increase in man-games lost, is from these types of so-called accidental or inadvertent contact.”

There are already signs that a rule banning lateral, blindside hits to the head – in its first full season – is working. The debate is about whether it goes far enough. Some are pushing for all contact to the head, intended or accidental, to be ruled illegal.

Others worry that hitting, a major and popular part of hockey, will be cut down to unnecessary and unwanted levels.

“The objective was to review what we have done and what we are doing to assess a variety of factors and determine how best to continue our ongoing effort to manage, reduce and whenever possible to find ways to prevent instances in which concussions occur,” Bettman said.

The next step will come in March when the league’s 30 general managers meet again. They will review all information and see if more needs to be done in an attempt to reduce concussions by proposing new rules.

The general managers came up with the current head-shot ban that went into effect shortly before last year’s playoffs.

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