Blackhawks Concussion Protocol Not Good Enough

The Chicago Blackhawks are now appear to have at least two (if not three) veterans missing action because of concussion problems. Unfortunately for the fans, and those players, it appears the organization hasn’t learned much from the delicate approach employed by the Pittsburgh Penguins, either.

It appears the Hawks have some issues with how they’re handling concussions, and that needs to change.

The most recent disturbing piece of evidence came from Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. On Wednesday morning Jahns tweeted that Niklas Hjalmarsson felt “off-balance” early against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 23, and knew he wasn’t right.

Here’s the problem with that statement: if Hjalmarsson didn’t think he was 100 percent, why did he skate over 16 minutes in the game?

The Dallas game was Hjalmarsson’s first time in game action since Feb. 7 against the Avalanche. He was not credited with a hit or a blocked shot in the game, and has not played again since.

According to an article on the Daily Herald’s site by Tim Sassone on Feb. 10, the common misdiagnosis of ”sick” happened out of the gate with Hjalmarsson. ”Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said it was because of the flu.”

On Jan. 23, the organization told the collected press that Toews’ injury “wasn’t serious,” and that he wouldn’t be out very long. When The Score’s Jay Zawaski reported on ChicagoNow.com that Toews had a concussion, even some of the beat reporters said as much as “the blogger needs to dig deeper.”

And yet here we are, now almost universally admitting that Toews has a concussion.

In an update in his breaking news article, Zawaski indicated that his source also indicated that Toews initially suffered the concussion in the San Jose game on Feb. 10 (some have speculated it was because of a punch to the back of the head from Joe Thornton). After the San Jose game, Toews played in five more games before taking a seat, and was over 20 minutes in four of those contests.

After watching Sidney Crosby’s disappearing act in Pittsburgh, and with the entire free world understanding that having one of the best players on the planet healthy is a good idea, why did the Hawks run Toews back out there five more times?

There has been speculation that Steve Montador, currently on IR, has a serious concussion and that his regular season is over (if not longer).

Last year, Dave Bolland left the lineup with a concussion he suffered in Tampa on March 9, but returned to play heavy minutes (including over 24 minutes the Game Six) in the final four games against the Canucks.

Certainly there are a lot of questions about how the Blackhawks have handled concussions this year that fans, and the impacted players, deserve to have answered.

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22 Responses to Blackhawks Concussion Protocol Not Good Enough

  1. rob says:

    I didnt say anything during the streak until the ranger game for good luck, so I will mention something again for good luck.

    I just hope their are doing it(concuss) right and if their not do it right now/on. Why are doctors not involved and make all players in league pass certain tests before their allowed to play again by the league. I still think suspensions need to be 10-40 games on the cheap/dirty hits (no matter what the refs see or wtf they call). Its too easy for a shi-head to nail somebody and take them out for 10 or more games and only get sidelined for 2-4 games.

    Its more important to have Tazer for the playoffs every year than to have him play in games too soon (like you said those 5more…then). or We wont win in the playoffs if Tazer is out, like Bolly last year. We need all of our better players to be 100%(per say).

    Without Tazer(hes by far the MIP of out best players) were screwed. With him, play like we can/should/better/normally have last 3-4 yrs and we can win on anygiven yr. We need everybody though.

    I cant wait until our team is loaded with top propects playing in the 23man roster and in ahl/jr/coll… Its going to be a nice felling to watch us play again when we have a better & deep team again like 2009 & 2010. Its going to be great yrs ahead, just sucks we have to wait 2-3? to get reloaded again.

  2. Dominic says:

    Agree 100%. Excellent points. Excellent article.

  3. Tuke says:

    When it come to concussions the bottom line is that players carry a great deal of the responsibility in letting the medical staff know the signs & symptoms they are encountering. If the staff is not aware then the staff can do nothing more than clear a player to play. Honestly there are many things that need to take place in order to reduce the number of concussions and shorten the players’ who do receive one’s recovery time. Better helmets made mandatory for all player as well as a zero tolerance on illegal head checks would be a great place to start.

    Player education is another area that is critically important to this problem. Mandatory education classes so that players can recognize the signs & symptoms of concussions would go a long way in reducing recovery time if the players knew what to look for. For instance a player takes a good check along the glass but feels fine the rest of the game. When he wakes in the morning he feels more tired than usual and a little more sluggish. Instead of the player thinking “WOW that was a really physical game last night, I’m really wore out”. He would instead realize “Hey, something isn’t right, I need to get checked out by the medical staff”.

    In the end the blame cannot be placed all on the medical staff but on everyone involved in the process. From the guy he laid the illegal check to the player who said he “Felt fine”, to the medical staff that cleared him. Sure the players are required to go through baseline testing at the start of the season but I have read many stories of players who do badly on these tests on purpose for the sole reason of beating the test should a suspected concussion arise. Players want to play and in some instances are going to do whatever they have to do in order to get back out on the ice.

    In the case of Toews playing 5 more games after the suspected hit that may have caused the concussion (if in fact that is what he has) there is the possibility that he felt very little to no change at all up until he was made to sit. Concussion symptoms have been known to show up days even sometimes months later. Are mistakes made in the handling of players with concussions? Certainly, but they cannot all be laid at one person’s feet.

  4. Brad Stevenson says:

    I agree Tab…excellent article…the Hawks clearly have an issue off the ice with their policies and protocols, but they also have an issue on the ice with their style of play…

    No one stands up to protect our best players from playing against viscous assaults…this is a constant theme with this hockey team and it has to change…Bollig, Mayers, Hayes, need to start lighting up the opposition to send a message to the rest of the league…

    I heard today, out of Canada, that Montador is done for the season, and that Hammer and Toews are both going to sit until there is improvement with the symptoms off the ice…and at this point of the season, it could mean that BOTH of their seasons are done as well, and so are our playoff chances…

  5. Logan Reilly says:

    It makes me sad that stopping concussions isn’t looked at more seriously. The NHL pretends they’re serious aboot it but players on teams are still falling by the wayside each week. I WISH….oh how I wish they’d rid the game of those death plates they call shoulder pads. It wouldn’t rid of all concussions but I bet it would reduce them by 50% or more.

    And pleaaaase, don’t give me this crap aboot goons needed to protect the players from being concussed. A player will STILL take cheap shots. Bollig isn’t even on the ice when Toews is on so how does this stop cheap shots??? It doesn’t.

    Once the goon steps on the ice looking for payback, the other team sends out their goon and a fight breaks out. Whoop dee doo. Meanwhile the culprit sits on the bench unscathed. Make sense? Nopers, because the whole rationale is stupid!

    Just take John Scott. He’s shipped out the door because, get this, he’s too big of a goon! You gotta give the other team a chance! So, Chicago goes and recalls a smaller goon. Thats more like it, the other teams think. “Now we can send out our goon.” proclaims the opposing coach.

    SO EFFIN’ STUPID.

  6. joey Zamboni says:

    A lot of excellent points have been made here by everyone, but there is one thing that can be done thats is not & that is to examine the helmets. They are little more than beefed up bicycle helmets…. Coupled with the loosely worn chin straps they don’t fit very well. There needs to be some research and development of a new hockey helmet. I agree that they have come a long way since the 1970′s, but they are still inadequate. A tighter fitting football type helmet with more cushion & protection is needed. The military saw that the helmets issued to our troops were not protecting them adequately and replaced them, it’s time for the NHL to do the same.

  7. shamrock says:

    I think 2 things need to happen if you want to end the head hunting. 1st players need to be more responsible in two ways: 1. If they do have symptoms that they believe are c

  8. shamrock says:

    Sorry for incomplete post. Computer issue. To repeat if you want to end the head hunting in the NHL 2 things need to happen. First, the players need to step up and do 2 things. One, when players believe they may have a concussion they need to step up and tell the team doctors, coaches and trainers. The players are the only ones who know how they feel. Its on them to let the team know. Secondly, players need to be responsible to each other. Stop the head shots. If a player has their back to another player the checker needs to lay off. Players need respect each other. Make clean hard checks and keep the elbows, sticks down and skates on the ice.

    The second thing that needs to happen is that the NHL has to be much more harsh when handing out penalties for head shots. Someone above mentioned the Thorton hit to the back of Toews head. These type of plays need to be reviewed by the NHL and punishment dealt out. This attitude of “old time hockey” or that its just “part of the game” needs to stop. Give Thornton a 10 game suspension for what he did and see how fast the crap stops. Now if a player takes a “head shot” with either elbow, leaping into a player, or a “dirty” hit and that leads to the hit player having a concussion or being out with whatever injury the “hitter” is out the rest of season and playoffs. If the NHL is truly serious about the safety of its players then these extreme punishments will go a long way to fixing these problems.

    One other thing. Someone above wrote about better and safer helmets. Equipment is always being made better every year. Players have the most protective equipment available. I sometimes wonder if its to good. I thinks players put this equipment on and feel they have put on armor and allows them to hit harder than they might otherwise hit if the equipment was not as protective. Let a player put on a pair shoulder pads like they had in the 1960′s and see if that player goes out and tries making rediculously hard hits.

  9. darcy says:

    They always say that helmets can’t stop concussions.If this is true then they really need to do everything else possible!Shouldn’t there be a research and developement group with the league and equipment manufacturers working together!If a helmet that protects a player from concussions isn’t possible I would bet that at least an improvement could be found.Ten % improvement is better than none.I just have a hard time believing that manufacturers are all that interested in player welfare.Unfortunately in todays business profit is king.The Nhl or Nhlpa need to lobby better and if only one manufacturer is willing to do what is needed then thats our guy.I know that equipment isn’t the total fix but it is a important piece.Respect,accountability and punishment also will be needed.Get rid of the instigator rule!

  10. Keith blows says:

    First of all, review your grammar in the first sentence. Secondly, who the hell are your sources who claim Toews’ concussion was a result from Thortons punch? You’re a joke Bamford.

  11. Tom Jaremka says:

    I’m tired of hearing about concussions. Concussions were part of the game 50 years ago, they were part of the game 25 years ago and they will be part of the game in 10 years. There are (2) reasons for more concussions over the last 2 years: 1. The NHL recognizes the concussions better. 2. The NHL is becoming faster and faster and it is basically pinball on ice.

    Better helmets, better equipment, better treatment will not stop concussions, or even keep them under control. The NHL has taken away everything that had the speed in the game “controlable”. There is no more red line, no more obstruction and no more goal net pegs. Concussions are the result of todays NHL. The equipment is so light and the skates are so good that players can literally skate like the wind. Plus, these players are so strong and they train so well that they can skate shift after shift and still have enough left in the tank for more. It’s unbelieveable!

    However, the biggest thing that the NHL did was put into effect the “instigator” rule. Women like Joe Thornton, Matt Cooke and a few other cheap shot artists can now get away with high hits, sucker punches and cross checks to the head because nobody is there for retribution. Sure, they may get a small fine, maybe a game suspension or maybe just a 2 minute minor. But when the NHL was made up of players who took pride in their game, this game was alot cleaner. There was a respect among players. It was like a fraternity on the ice. Everyone knew who the “protectors” were.

    I know alot of people think that in the old days, they were just “goons”. That could NOT be farther from the truth. ANYONE that has ever skated in the NHL had the talent and could play. Ever try to fight on skates? You better have talent ’cause you’ll get killed……and you better be in shape ’cause a 30 second fight feels like you ran a marathon. Guys like Reid Simpson and Dave Mackey who wore the indian head were “protectors” who could play the game, believe me. But they did what they were asked to do, protect other players.

    My suggestion, and I’m an old school guy, is simple………leave everything alone and take out the instigator rule. Do it for one (1) year, just one. Watch all the crap come to a screeching halt!! Hockey is an emotional game played by the most skilled professional athletes in the world, let them fight because fighting is necessary in PROFESSIONAL hockey.

    Gary Bettman, are you listening? Just remove the instigator rule for one year and watch the concussion numbers drop.

  12. John says:

    @ Joey Zamboni…. unfortunately helmets have nothing to do with concussions. Helmets protect your skull. They do nothing to prevent the brain from moving slamming into your skull which is what actually causes the concussion. Helmet makers that say their helmets reduce concussions are going to regret ever having made those claims.

  13. Drew says:

    I work in Sports Medicine, and the biggest issue has always been self-reporting of symptoms, mostly for the reasons listed in previous posts. The NFL O-Lineman who almost died during a seizure on the team flight home told team staff that he had injured his ankle when he was seen staggering back to the huddle, and he continued to play.

    No one, except MAYBE Toews and 2-3 others, know when he was injured. The Thornton cheap shot is as good a guess as any, but it’s a guess. Regardless, if the player does not experience or report symptoms, the team staff cannot do anything to help him manage the injury.

    The writer of the article clearly has not spoken with anyone directly involved with the team because the Blackhawks are one of only a few teams that actually HAVE a protocol for progression of activity and eventual return to the ice after a concussion has been reported/diagnosed. Be a bit more responsible, and your input could conceivably be constructive.

  14. I agree with Shamrock but not at all with Jaremka…like it or not the element of fighting being acceptable is on its way out; sooner or later it’s going to happen.

  15. Brad Stevenson says:

    Exactly Tom…that is what needs to happen and that is what will occur by taking out the instigator…

    For Logan, if you don’t understand this, YOU NEVER PLAYED THE GAME!

  16. joey Zamboni says:

    @John. I respectfully disagree. I believe helmets do protect you. Thats why the US Military improved their helmets because the concussions from IED’s were causing brain injuries. Now, I understand a helmet won’t protect you 100% of the time, some impacts are just too severe.

    Bottom line is the helmets need to fit tight like the military’s helmets with the chinstrap tight also. This would also decrease the amount of fighting because the helmets would not come off as easily as they do now & most players wouldn’t want to risk a broken hand from hitting the helmet. That’s why fighting is so rare in the NFL.

    Again this is just MY opinion & I respect yours as well John.

  17. Logan Reilly says:

    For Brad: Whatever.

    Its a new NHL, stop living in the 70′s, dude. Newsflash:Dave Shultz retired. Shocker, I know. LOL

    And try to be smarter…Blackhawks aren’t sellers….you’re just a quitter with that merntality.

  18. Lucky Larms says:

    Something that would be interesting to look at would be the helmets the players are wearing when they receive the concussions. A guy like Toews wears the Bauer 4500 helmet which for anyone that plays the game knows that although it is visually the best helmet on the market it doesn’t offer much padding or protection. This helmet retails for around $50 in the store. Granted, players wear “pro stock” gear which typically includes more padding and protection, however the 4500 helmet in this instance is virtually the same as the retail model minus the logos on the side. If I’m the Blackhawks brass I would have an issue with my franchise player not wearing the safest bucket available. Just my 2 cents…

  19. John says:

    @ Joey… It’s not an opinion it is the truth about what a helmet does. Banning fighting will stop fighting. Getting rid of fighting will probably have little impact on the frequency of concussions. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but it is not going to solve the problem. It is a smoke and mirrors thing. The NHL could point to something to show how much they care about player safety while not addressing the real issues. The speed of the game, rules, and dirty hits are the problem. I hope the speed of the game does not get changed and that physicality stays a major part of hockey, but stricter penalties for hits to the head, some rule changes, and players respecting one another and truly understanding the damage they cause and the real danger of head injuries are what would really make a difference. Concussions will never go away it is a dangerous game. I just want the players to know what they are facing. If they want to keep playing, I’ll be glad to continue watching.

  20. Tom Jaremka says:

    Zebra, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I’m “old school” and you’re “new school”, that’s all. My guess is that you’re not a hockey player, which is fine. So let me put it in a way that you can understand what happens on the ice.

    Picture yourself on a playground in school. You’re eating your lunch on a beautiful spring day. Your ham sandwich and juice box are wonderful. Suddenly, the playground bully, Joe Thornton, comes over and pushes you down on the ground and takes your twinkie and juice box. You look around and nobody is there to help you. So you just start to cry. This goes on for three days. Finally, you tell your big brother, John, and he comes to your school, goes up to the bully, and in front of EVERYONE he beats the snot out of Joe Thornton. Three things happen from that day forward……..Joe Thornton NEVER touches you again, NOBODY else touches you either and you can enjoy your twinkie and juice box without a problem.

    Get it? This is EXACTLY what happens on the ice, my son. Fighting will always be a part of hockey. If not, there will be more slashing and cheap shots. If they take out the “instigator” rule, cheap shots and head hunting will go away. Guaranteed.
    And no, I’m not living in the 70′s.

    Brad, thanks for having my back on this.

  21. McKay says:

    Nice example Tom. Except one problem. Joe has already concussed you. Big brother John (or whoever) beating the shit out of Joe isn’t going to undo that.

    The problem is the same as what’s happening in the NFL: the shoulder pads are so strong and light—designed to protect your own body—that it makes stronger, faster athletes invincible. Limit the impact of the shoulder pads and you take away a lot of that shock.

    Take that Kronwall hit on Havlat in 2009. Would a John Scott figure have stopped that hit? Probably not. If Kronwall didn’t have massive plastic shoulder pads exploding through Havlat’s chest / chin area—Havlat probably isn’t laying motionless on the ice. And if Kronwall has smaller shoulder pads, he has to absorb more of Havlat’s inertia and consider whether or not he wants to deal with that pain.

  22. Reginald Iba says:

    Although concussions usually are caused by a blow to the head, they can also occur when the head and upper body are violently shaken. These injuries can cause a loss of consciousness, but most concussions do not. Because of this, some people have concussions and don’t realize it. :`.^

    My own, personal blog
    http://homeimprovementstuffs.com/index.php

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