Will Concussions Make Rick Nash The Next Eric Lindros?

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 07:  Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers skates on the forecheck in the third period of their NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 7, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Rangers defeated the Kings 3-1.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

New York Rangers winger Rick Nash is skating on his own, but remains uncertain when he'll return to action, reports Stephen Lorenzo of the New York Daily News.

Nash suffered a concussion during an October 8 game against the San Jose Sharks after being elbowed in the head by Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart. 

It's the third concussion of Nash's career and his second this year. The previous one occurred last February during a game against the Boston Bruins when he was hit from behind by Milan Lucic, missing four games as a result. 

Fortunately for Nash, the NHL has made significant improvements in its concussion treatment protocols.

Players are no longer rushed back into action before they've fully recovered. Helmets and mouth guards have been improved to reduce head trauma and the league introduced Rule 48 to reduce targeted hits to the head in 2011.

While Nash stands a good chance of making a full recovery, his recent injuries are reminiscent of those that ended the career of Philadelphia Flyers great Eric Lindros.

29 Dec 1998:  Eric Lindros #88 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action during the game against the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flyers defeated the Flames 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Ian Tomlinson  /Allsport
Ian Tomlinson/Getty Images
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Like Nash, Lindros was a 6'4" power forward with tremendous offensive skills. In his heyday with the Flyers, Lindros was among the league's biggest stars. Opponents often resorted to physical play—by fair or foul means—to slow Lindros down and minimize his effectiveness.

The heavy hitting eventually took its toll on Lindros, who suffered eight concussions during his NHL career, including six in a 27-month period between 1998 and 2000.

The most memorable occurred during Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, when New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens leveled the big Flyers center with a thunderous open-ice hit.

Lindros was never the same again. He sat out the following season over a contract dispute with the Flyers, spent three forgettable seasons with the Rangers (suffering two more concussions) and followed that up with brief stints in Toronto and Dallas until his retirement in 2007.

A lack of understanding throughout the NHL over the diagnosis and treatment of concussions was largely responsible for Lindros suffering as many as he did in such a short period, ultimately shortening his career.

Newsday recently reported that Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, himself a victim of multiple concussions, reached out to Nash with support and advice.

Crosby could serve as an inspiration for Nash. Concussions threatened Crosby's career two years ago, but he sought out various treatments, including the use of a GyroStim, which is credited with speeding up his recovery. 

For every success like Crosby's, however, there are those who, like Lindros, never make a full recovery. A recent example is Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, whose 18-year NHL career was ended by a concussion—the first he ever suffered.

Despite the league's improvement in its concussion treatment protocols and efforts to reduce hits to the head, a recent study by Canada.com revealed a 30 percent increase in concussions this season.

If this trend continues, the league will have to revisit this issue and do more to improve player safety.

To avoid another concussion, Nash might have to adjust his style of play. He'll have to avoid leaving himself vulnerable to blindside hits and not engage in fights. Lindros' refusal to change his style contributed to his downfall.

Crosby claims his game hasn't changed, but he doesn't play as physical a style as Nash and Lindros.

Thanks to improved concussion treatment protocols, Nash could avoid the same fate as Lindros. It is up to the NHL, however, to do more to improve the safety of its players.


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