by PuckStopsHere on 11/26/13 at 02:19 AM ET
The big news today is that ten ex-NHL players have filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in the District of Columbia alleging that the NHL has not done enough to protect players from concussions. After the NFL paid out $765 million to 4500 former players, it was just a matter of time before this happened. The players filing the lawsuit include former 50 goal scorers Rick Vaive and Gary Leeman, veteran defencemen Richie Dunn, Curt Bennett and Bob Manno, veteran forward Blair Stewart and journeymen Brad Aitken, Darren Banks, Warren Holmes and Morris Titanic. All of these players report multiple concussions and sub-concussion impacts that have negatively influenced their quality of life since their retirement. Many have suffered from memory loss, lack of concentration, headaches and dizziness. This is probably only the beginning of the NHL's problems with concussion related lawsuits.
The NHL has a long history of ignoring concussions. A player gets his "bell rung" with a head hit and as long as he is able to "skate it off", he is thrown back onto the ice. It was the 1990's before the first steps were taken to recognize the problem. Eric Lindros's concussion shortened career helped to shine a light on the problem. His career is full of stories of undiagnosed concussions that led to later problems. Lindros was a superstar player that team's medical staffs should have been protecting as he was a valuable asset. Lesser players probably had even less attention.
The NHL has been attempting to speed up the game for many years. A sped up game means more hits occurring at full speed. NHL players have been getting bigger and faster over the years and this leads to more energetic (and hence more damaging) hits. The NHL is the only major sport that allows fighting without ejecting the players involved. This all makes the NHL very vulnerable to paying out significant damages to players who have suffered concussions. These players and many others will eventually receive significant payouts.
Playing in the NHL - or in any professional sports league - is not expected to be a safe endeavor. Players will suffer injuries. The NHL has a responsibility to make sure that the game is as safe as is reasonably possible. They haven't done this regarding concussions. Any player who suffered a concussion and was thrown back out on the ice was not adequately protected.
The NHL has a long history of treating players as disposable. There have been many labor battles for the players to get the share of the pie that they have now and the recent lockouts have been about clawing back from the players. This labor background makes the NHL more likely to be found guilty should a trial get that far. Many of the players involved in the lawsuit were not superstars. If they were not on NHL rosters, there are many other players of roughly equal talent ready to take their place. This attitude exists in NHL coaching staffs. If a role player is unable to play due to injury, he often will lose his job. This pushes the role players back into the line-up when they are not ready. Concussions have not been seen as "real injuries". A broken leg is an obvious injury and a player cannot play with one. A concussion is not so obvious. A role player with a concussion can be thrown back onto the ice and if he doesn't like it he can be replaced.
The story of concussions in the NHL's recent past is a bad one for the league. They will have to pay financially for this negligence. Several ex-players quality of life has been hurt because of it.
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