NHL has no comment after NFL concussion settlement

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The NFL has reached a $765 million settlement, which if approved by a judge, will end months of mediation and a concussion lawsuit. The money will help fund medical exams and research as well as pay former players suffering from dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and Alzheimer’s disease, according to CBC.

Following this agreement, NHL spokesman Frank Brown told the Globe and Mail that the league had no comment. Still, the question of whether or not we could see a similar class-action lawsuit might have been impacted by this settlement.

As lawyer Caroline Zayid points out, one of the results of this lawsuit is that the NFL will not have to reveal any documentation showing how much they knew about concussions at varying points in time.

“If all the documents had been produced, it might have made it easier to follow the trail and figure out when certain information became widely known and when medical evidence came to light,” Zayid said. “It might have provided a bit of a road map. The NHL is a different league, but you probably would have looked for parallels and it might have helped a little bit.”

In other words, Zayid thinks this result diminishes the odds that we will see similar legal action attempted by former NHL players.

It’s also worth noting that NFL executive vice president Jeffrey Pash said the league didn’t reach this settlement because they felt they were in the wrong, but rather because they “thought it was critical to get more help to players and families who deserve it rather than spend many years and millions of dollars on litigation.”

The NHL has taken pains in recent years to reduce the number of head hits and thus concussions in the game, although the rate of concussions has reportedly not decreased.

Report: NHL rule changes haven’t decreased concussion rates

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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Flyers’ Bourdon recovering from concussion

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

It looks like Georges Laraque, who enjoyed a 695 game NHL career, will attempt to run for office in Canada. (The Globe and Mail)

Top Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Slater Koekkoek has already gone through two reconstructive shoulder surgeries, but he’s still optimistic about his future. (Tampa Tribune)

23-year-old defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon is progressing in his recovery from a concussion. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect isn’t experiencing headaches anymore and he’s optimistic about his chances of being cleared for contact in the near future. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

John Hayden was taken by Chicago in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He’s attending his first Blackhawks training camp and is blogging about his experiences. (Blackhawks.nhl.com)

Nelson Emerson, the Los Angeles Kings’ head of player development, talks about the team’s development camp. (LA Kings Insider)

20-year-old forward Phillip Danault will be fighting for a roster spot with the Chicago Blackhawks during training camp. (CSN Chicago)

Andy McDonald retires, citing concussion concerns

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In somewhat surprising news, Blues forward Andy McDonald is retiring, citing post-concussion concerns as his reason for leaving the game.

“The last few years too much of the focus became worrying about the next hit. I was always thinking about it,” McDonald tells True Hockey.

“I’m fortunate to get out now. I know I could play two or three more years and I love the game of hockey, but health-wise I know I shouldn’t be playing.”

McDonald, 35, had seven goals and 14 assists in 37 games this season. He appeared in all six playoff games for St. Louis, failing to register a point.

According to True Hockey, McDonald suffered five concussions during his NHL career.

McDonald was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

In all, he played 685 regular-season games, scoring 182 goals and adding 307 assists.

He also won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Eller (concussion/facial fractures) visits Canadiens

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Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller is making progress after his scary open-ice hit by Ottawa Senators defenseman Eric Gryba.

He has been released from the hospital and was feeling well enough to visit the Canadiens, according the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs.

“It was nice to see him,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said.

“He looks good,” Therrien stopped mid-word and repeated that. After some brief laughter he added, “He did look better before, but it was just nice to see him. You could tell our guys care about him and he’s such a good kid.”

Eller needed to be placed on a stretcher after he fell face-first on the ice. He has been diagnosed with a concussion and facial fractures.

The incident resulted in Gryba being handed a two-game suspension, although not everyone agreed with the decision.

It has also sparked a war of words between Montreal and Ottawa.

With the series tied, Game 3 will start at 7:00 p.m. ET and will be on NBCSN.