NHL to implement concussion ‘spotters’ at games (Updated)

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The NHL is taking a page from the NFL when it comes to concussion protocol.

Over the weekend, deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to Le Journal de Montreal that, this season, there will be “spotters” in the stands looking for signs of player concussions.

This is, as mentioned above, similar to the move the NFL made in 2012 with its ACT Spotters, a program in which certified athletic trainers were in place at every game — in the press box — to watch for potential head injuries.

This year, the NFL placed even more power in the spotters’ hands, allowing them to stop the game and remove a player showing signs of a possible concussion.

There will be some differences between the NHL and NFL systems, however.

From Le Journal (translated):

In the NFL, observers are physicians who are employed by the league and are not confined to a single city.

NHL will be different.

It will not necessarily be a doctor (not a requirement) that will take this position and in addition, that person will be paid by the local team. It will be placed in the stands at a secret location and will always remain in the same city.

Le Journal reports the NHL decided to implement spotters because “too many teams decided to flout” the previous concussion protocol, which called for potentially concussed players to exit the ice and head to the “quiet room” for examination.

Update: Here’s further info from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, some of which is contrary to the Le Journal report.

There have been club concussion spotters for the past few seasons — people hired by teams — but this season they will be independent. There will be two designated people per building with varied backgrounds who will split the games.

Their only given job on any given night will be spotting for any visible signs of concussion. They will log all those incidents into a file.

If or when a club wants to use the league spotter instead of their own, they can do that, in which case the spotter will have communication abilities down to the bench to talk to the trainer. But on most nights, because most clubs want to maintain this responsibility in-house, the new independent spotters are there just logging incidents.