Gary Bettman thinks rule changes will make a big dent in concussion rates

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concussionsavard.jpgBuried in a rather standard “let’s make next year better than last, even though the 2009-10 season was really great” type statement from Gary Bettman is an interesting claim. As you may remember from approximately 3,000 posts* late last season, the NHL faced some serious problems with hits to the head and Bettman seems confident that the changes made will make a big difference.

* – This is an exaggeration.

In fact, Bettman seems to think it might cut concussions in half. (source: NHL.com)

Bettman said the NHL already has seen the benefits of looking ahead in the adoption of the rules package instituted for this season that will significantly reduce the number of hits to the head players experience during NHL play. Those rules came about after the League looked comprehensively at concussion data and the way the NHL game had evolved and arrived at a solution to reduce the amount of dangerous hitting that had crept into the game.

“It became abundantly clear to us that a lateral or blindside hit where the primary point of contact or the focus of the hit was the head — even if delivered by a shoulder — was devastating and we needed, based on how the game evolved, to get it out of the game,” Bettman said.

Bettman believes the impact of removing those hits will be one of the main storylines of the 2010-11 season.

“We think, based on the research — and I don’t want to oversell this — that the rule change made by the general managers could reduce concussions by up to 50 percent,” Bettman said. “If that is the case, it will have been a dramatic step forward.”

Actually, I think predicting that concussions will be cut by half is a pretty good example of “overselling” it.

While it would be great if such a change would reduce concussions that drastically, chances are it will take time (and probably other measures, like improving helmets along with developing consistency with suspensions) to make such a significant dent. Still, it’s nice that the NHL is at least putting an emphasis on ridding the game of dirty hits, even when it’s not the hot topic in hockey-free August.