The major talk of this season has been concussions.
Everywhere you turn you hear something about a "concussion epidemic."
And yes, at first glance it certainly seems that way. However, the amount of concussions, I would wager, is essentially the same or close to what it will be by season's end as it has been in other years.
There are a couple of reasons why the NHL concussions are getting so much attention these days, which is part of the reason why a lot of people are freaking out.
The league has really taken a lot of steps to help identify, counteract and react to concussions both end-game and in-game. (If you haven't checked out the NHL concussion protocol, here it is.) For that reason you're seeing a lot more players listed on the DL, or not returning to a game with "concussion like symptoms."
I commend the league for taking these actions because it's important to the players' health. However, it has had an interesting result on the disclosure of injuries. With so many steps and precautions being taken it's almost impossible to keep a player out without specifying if it was a concussion or not. It's becoming hard to hide by players, and hard to come back from.
Think about how many players on your favorite team over the last five seasons have been removed from the lineup with an "Upper-body injury" and you never found out what it was? Well now we are slowly starting to figure out probably what it was most of the time—minor concussions, or concussion like symptoms.
The NHL has always been a bold league of tough guys who play hurt and play through the injuries. We are now realizing just how detrimental it can be to do that. So you're not seeing guys skate it off, or battle through it. You're seeing teams take the utmost precaution when it comes to head injuries.
I am certain that in the past, both player and team, have sidelined minor concussion like feelings because the player felt he was "good to go." It's a bad thing, but it's just the mentality of athletes and hockey in general. These guys are warriors. And anyone who has ever played sports competitively knows you don't care if you are hurt you want to get back out there ASAP. But you can't do that now, thankfully.
There is also the example of a guy like Colby Armstrong who didn't inform his team, which I am sure was also quite prevalent in the past, but you can't do that now.
The other thing that is making this "concussion epidemic" so prevalent is the number of quality players that are falling victim.
Crosby, Shea Weber, Jeff Skinner, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Joni Pitkanen, Ryan Miller, Latendresse, Chris Pronger, Kris Letang, Colby Armstrong, John-Michael Liles, etc.
It's a huge list, and it features a lot of marquee players for different teams. Truth of the matter is, it's been a bit of combined bad luck for a lot of teams. Every year there are players from teams that suffer concussions. The only difference is, those players are Alex Plante and Brian Rolston...and not Shea Weber and Sidney Crosby.
It's not to say that because a player is not as prolific or important to his team that the concussion severity is lessened, it's just the obvious nature of media and sports. If your best or one of your better players gets injured, it's going to be a big deal.
In general the league has increased its awareness of concussions, and it's honestly been a lot of bad luck with bigger players going down to this injury. That's why I feel as though concussions are pretty much going to be on par with other years, regardless of being disclosed or undisclosed.
I am not going to be an over-reacter to this media induced "epidemic." I don't think anything about the game should change, save maybe giving those Messier helmets a solid look as mandatory equipment.
It really is terrible that a lot of great players are getting hurt but this is hockey, not hopscotch. The league is taking the right steps in preserving the physicality of the game and trying to protect player health and safety.
More is certain to come in precautions, but I think the league is seeing it the same way I am.