When a sports league introduces a measure to cut down on concussions, it’s become a reflex to ask “Yeah, but does that rule have any teeth?”
More specifically, in the heat of competition, will a rule force a team to choose a player’s long-term health over the short-term goal of trying to win a game … especially if said player wants to get back into the action?
That’s a tough task, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the NHL will likely add a measure that might help: “central spotters.”
In addition to on-site concussion spotters, Friedman reports that four “central spotters” will monitor all NHL games on TV. They will – allegedly – have the power to remove a player from a game if they notice that said player displays “visible signs of a concussion,” according to Friedman.
Friedman believes there’s “no question” that the tweak stems in part from the fallout of Dennis Wideman‘s controversial collision with linesman Don Henderson:
Friedman explains how a concussion spotter with more agency might have made a difference:
Evidence in the various hearings indicated the in-arena spotter had asked for Wideman to be removed from the game, but Wideman declined when approached by Calgary trainers. Later, Wideman admitted he did suffer a concussion, which led to a reduction in his penalty.
Interestingly, another inspiration might be the murmurs around the NFL surrounding the risks Cam Newton may have been exposed to during the league’s regular season opener on Thursday.
Plenty of onlookers would agree that both leagues have … room for improvement in this area.
Now, there are some potential questions that come with the “central spotters.”
Most pressingly, how will trainers watching a TV have any more power than in-house spotters, who were possibly ignored in cases like that of Wideman?
In a more esoteric way, you wonder if technology or human error could also factor in. What if something’s just flat-out missed, particularly on the type of evenings where there are multiple games going on at once?
Friedman reports that the league is likely to announce additional details – assuming the idea goes through – so perhaps we’ll have more answers then.
(H/T to The Hockey News.)