Last Friday, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who played 52 games with the San Antonio Rampage this season, received a concussion in an extremely forceful collision with forward Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals, a player known to hit hard whenever given the opportunity.
Wilson delivered a hit that would have caught Zadorov squarely in the chest had Zadorov not lowered his head just a split-second prior to the contact.
The hit was delivered cleanly and the contact with Zadorov’s head was deemed incidental because the principle point of contact was the chest, per the NHL Department of Player Safety.
From the league’s perspective, the onus was on Zadorov to make a quicker decision with the puck so he could brace for the contact that was about to occur.
This brings up an interesting discussion that applies not only to professional ice hockey, but any contact sport at any level of play.
There is a certain amount of danger that is implicit to any contact sport, and that threat of danger is part of sports’ appeal to their fans.
The NHL and NFL have no incentive to fundamentally change the way their games are played because they are more profitable than ever, and there is never a shortage of players lining up for their chance to play in one of these leagues.
At the collegiate level, preventative measures to curb concussion rates in a student athletes are slowly being implemented as well.
Banning only intentional contact to the head will not eliminate concussions; only eliminating contact will eliminate concussions.
In addition to the fact that tackling, hitting and fighting will inevitably entails some amount of incidental head contact – even if the rules forbid it – it is now common knowledge that concussions can be caused by contact not only to the head, but also to the body.
As long as the public supports the institutions that set standards when it comes to the safety of contact sports, they will become only marginally safer.
As long as rugby and football allow tackling and hockey allows hitting and fighting, concussions will occur.
As long as concussions occur, lives will be permanently altered, ruined or cut short as a result.