This weekend, former NHL player Eric Lindros spoke at a concussion symposium called See the Light. At it, he expressed his very specific viewpoint on what the NHL should do to prevent brain injuries: stop all body contact.
Over his 13 year career with the Flyers, Rangers, Leafs, and Stars, Lindros was a dominant forward who dealt with many injuries, many of them concussions. The 45-year-old Ontario native still plays hockey and feels that the game is exactly as fun and exhilarating without the body on body hits.
“Let’s get right to it,” Lindros said, according to the National Post. “You talk about me playing. I love hockey and I continue playing hockey. But it’s funny — the hockey I was playing all those years was really physical, and I have just as much fun (these days), but we don’t run into one another. We’re still having as much fun, the same enjoyment of it. We know concussions are down in a league without contact.”
As hard as it would be to imagine a game without body contact, the fun of a good, clean hit that rocks the other player momentarily, he’s essentially right; there is evidence that it’s not necessarily contact to the head that causes the brain injury, that a solid hit that jars the body can cause the brain to move when it shouldn’t. These subconcussive impacts occur repeatedly during the course of a game, a series, and a season without the player necessarily showing symptoms of a concussion from acute and sudden impact to the head of the player. Regardless of the way the injury happens, it affects the player for the entirety of their life.
What’s interesting is that while many players have come out against the NHL, have joined or sued the NHL separately, Lindros is making a different kind of statement, stating that the way the game has relied upon hits is not sustainable for players and that the game can still be great without it. However, the league has to accept that concussions are caused by the game in more ways than just head hits and that this type of injury affects the players for life. When they start accepting that part, maybe they’ll think of ways to protect players more.