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Ban Fighting in Hockey: Poll - Globe and Mail article

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   March 9, 2013 12:10

It appears the nation is keen to clean up the national game.

A new Exhibit No. 1 in the court of public opinion was on gut-wrenching display Wednesday night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, when Maple Leafs forward Frazer McLaren knocked out Ottawa Senators rookie Dave Dziurzynski with a single punch to the head.

Rarely has a player worn such an unfortunate nickname – “Call me Dizzy,” Dziurzynski recently told reporters who were tying their fingers in knots trying to type his name – as the 23-year-old forward suffered a concussion in the fight that took place barely 26 seconds into the game.

“It doesn’t appear to have been provoked at all,” says former Ontario attorney-general Roy McMurtry, who fought, and mostly lost, a high-profile legal battle against NHL violence in the 1970s.

“It’s just plain thuggery.”

It’s also a farce. The staged fight is the cartoon of professional hockey – “entertainment” apart from the main attraction – but it is increasingly seen as not funny at all. Particularly when players are injured.

This was the classic staged fight, all but guaranteed the moment the two coaches filled out their lineups and threw out players who should count themselves fortunate to see a few minutes of ice time on a fourth line.

There was a fight, but no punishment for stopping the game so abruptly and unnecessarily. Both players were given majors – let’s not call them penalties – and sent off (Dziurzynski was helped off once he regained consciousness). The teams then resumed play with five skaters a side.

McLaren, with his fifth fight of the shrunken season, will now be able to table his treasured major just as superior players will table their goals and assists come contract time. In the NHL, after all, you are rewarded, not penalized, for fighting.

It is perhaps the greatest absurdity in all of team sports. And, it appears, people are finally starting to see it as such.

“Staged fights, and indeed all fights in hockey should be banned, as they are in many great sports such as soccer,” says Dr. Charles Tator, founder of ThinkFirst Canada and project director of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital.

“We would have a safer game if we banned fighting.”

Nearly 40 years after McMurtry and his brother Bill tried to get gratuitous and unnecessary violence out of the game, a new survey contends that Canadians are sick of such thuggery.

Angus Reid Public Opinion recently surveyed the population at large, as well as a specific sample of self-described hockey fans, on a number of issues from when to introduce bodychecking to what should be done about fisticuffs in the game.

This week, The Globe and Mail reported on the first part of the survey – a vast majority of Canadians want bodychecking out of peewee hockey – and today the results are in on the public attitude toward fighting:

Three-quarters of Canadians (78 per cent) – and an identical percentage of fans of the game – want to see fights banned in all junior hockey;

Two-thirds of Canadians – fans as well as the general public – believe fighting should also be banned at the professional level;

Only 16 per cent of the country favours allowing fights at the junior levels;

One-quarter of Canadians (27 per cent) oppose eliminating fights at the professional level, while 5 per cent aren’t sure what to do;

While 95 per cent of fans believe skating is an “essential component” of the game, and 93 per cent believe shooting is important, a minuscule 7 per cent say the ability to engage in on-ice fights is important.

In other words, hockey’s cartoon can go.

The online survey was conducted between Feb. 22 and 26. It involved 1,013 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists and an additional smaller sample of 502 self-described hockey fans. According to the pollster, the margin of error in such a survey would be plus or minus 3.1 per cent from the larger sample of Canadian adults, and plus or minus 4.5 per cent for the smaller sample.

Respondents were asked if they would support a system in place in college and university hockey, where rules call for automatic ejection and suspension for those players engaging in fisticuffs.

By large majorities, they agreed there should be rules to bring an end, as much as possible, to fighting in hockey.

The survey did not break down fights into those that occur in the heat of the moment and those that occur for no comprehensible reason, as was the case when Dziurzynski and McLaren decided to hammer each other before the game had taken a second breath.

So while McLaren has another “major” to take to the bargaining table, Dziurzynski carries with him a history of concussion as he tries to establish what has already been a most unlikely hockey career.

The 23-year-old rookie from Lloydminster, Alta., came to the NHL only because the Senators have been so gutted by injury the team has had to reach far down into its minor-league system.

Dziurzynski did not play major junior hockey and was never drafted. His size – 6 foot 3, 204 pounds – and willingness to do whatever it takes made him an attractive quantity. He at times has appeared to be a late bloomer as far as ability and skills are concerned, but his main qualities remain size and toughness.

When the taller and larger McLaren asked right off the opening faceoff if Dziurzynski wanted to fight – McLaren has admitted he was trying to “spark” his team to a strong early start – the Ottawa rookie initially said no, but then went ahead and fought anyway.

If he was going to stick, he would have to prove himself.

But what he also proved is that, when it comes to fighting in hockey, we are getting a bit dizzy and nauseous.

Article from the Globe and Mail.

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Rule, Policy Changes Needed to Stop Concussions: Expert

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 18, 2011 09:12

By: Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald

Calgary Herald - A researcher from the Boston University School of Medicine said radical change needs to happen in concussion prevention.

"We're not having very big conversations about (concussion prevention) and part of that needs to come from the top down in terms of rule changes, policy changes, training changes," said Chris Nowinski, a leading expert in concussions, who spoke Sunday to a gathering during the Head On Sport Head Injury Prevention Convention at the University of Calgary. "Luckily, we are having conversations with the bodies that are in charge of those things.

"It's education." Nowinski, a Harvard graduate and former WWE wrestler, has been educating the masses on concussion issues. He's the co-founder and president of the Sports Legacy Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to sports concussions, and the codirector of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University. Researchers there have set up a brain bank to investigate athletes for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease which causes cognitive decline, behavioural abnormalities including depression, and dementia.

The post-mortem analysis of brain tissue reveals concussions and nonconcussive blows could both be linked to the disease. About 400 athletes have agreed to donate their brains to the research facility when they die.

"It doesn't necessarily correlate to concussions right now, but that's because we haven't historically diagnosed them," Nowinski said. "It appears to be correlated to total brain trauma. We know that every hit to the head and every symptom counts."

On Sunday, the Sports Legacy Institute received word that the family of National Hockey League enforcer Derek Boogaard has donated his brain to the institution. Due to legal reasons, Nowinski couldn't speculate on Boogaard's situation.

Boogaard, who spent his first five seasons with the Minnesota Wild, was limited to 22 games last season with the New York Rangers due to a concussion and shoulder injury. He was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment Friday.

Concussion and spinal injury activist Kerry Goulet, who works alongside former NHLer Keith Primeau, told the audience Boogaard's family made the right decision in donating his brain to science.

"What a horrible, tragic incident that has happened," said Goulet, who suffered depression and the effects of concussions during a 16-year professional hockey career in Germany. "It brings back memories you just don't want to think about. It's a grieving time for the family; all of us a community of hockey and sports people are I'm sure sending out their regards for the family.

"And, hopefully, through his death and if it is in fact that it is something that has been dealt to him through concussion and possibly through the CTE situation, we learn from it."

Two cases of CTE in the NHL have been discovered.

Reggie Fleming died in 2009 at age 73 with dementia. Bob Probert, a 16-year veteran who died last summer after his heart gave out while he was fishing, suffered at least three concussions and struggled with substance abuse. He began to show signs of CTE in his 40s, such as memory loss and behavioural problems.

Both players were fighters.

The findings have fuelled the debate surrounding the need for rule changes in hockey, which largely came to the forefront when Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was sidelined with concussion symptoms this season.

"We knew it was real. I've been doing this for nine years and all of a sudden, now that Crosby's gone out of the game with a concussion, we take it really seriously," Goulet added. "People like Chris have been able to build an infrastructure for us to educate and hopefully make a difference in this thing."

Nowinski was speaking in Calgary along with Goulet, Calgary Stampeders medical services director Pat Clayton, Dr. Carolyn Emery, professor of pediatric rehabilitation at the University of Calgary, and Brady Greening, the director of health services and head athletic therapist at the Edge School.

All speakers alluded to the fact that children are much more susceptible to concussions. Nowinski said because their brains are developing, they are more sensitive to the excitotoxic shock of a concussion. Other factors are weak necks and torsos that can't distribute force of the body well, poor equipment, exposure to coaches of various levels of training, and have poor language skills to communicate concussion symptoms.

Helmets are one element in prevention, according to Nowinski, but rule and culture changes also need to be enforced.

"When we think about the problem with kids and playing contact sports," explained Nowinski. "We have to start thinking about the differences between adults and kids.

"If we're concerned about adults, we should be really, really, worried about kids."

Read more:



Fox Sports: Bradshaw shares battle with concussions

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 18, 2011 09:02

Well, fans, I’m going out and buying a ping pong table. The doctors say that will help improve my hand/eye coordination. It’s definitely not what it used to be. And I’m also doing some brain puzzle tests that I download off the Internet. Basically, I’m rehabbing my brain.


Today most athletes rehab after surgery from a knee or shoulder injury. Well, I’m learning how to prevent my brain from getting worse than it is after suffering a career worth of concussions playing football. When I played for the Steelers and I got my bell rung, I’d take smelling salts and go right back out there. All of us did that. We didn’t know any better. You don’t know how many times I was in the huddle, asking my teammates to help me call a play. After a few minutes, I’d be fine and I’d keep playing just like nothing had happened.

But lately I’ve really been struggling with my short-term memory. I was in Ruston, La., doing my annual fundraising golf tournament for my alma mater, Louisiana Tech, and I told a bunch of writers and TV folks back there what was going on with me. I was dead serious with them. It was definitely the first time I was back there that I didn’t crack a joke or smile. I think they knew I was serious because I was sweating so much, explaining what was going on with me.

Why did I go public? Well, I thought it would be good for a lot of players for this to get out, for me to tell my story because I was a quarterback. I know how much my late center Mike Webster suffered. I can only imagine what a lot of defensive players from my era are going through. I’ve talked with Howie Long about this. He understands what I’m going through. I just thought it would good for them to hear what I had to say. I also think other players should speak up and say what they’ve been experiencing. It’s good for the soul and your brain.


I spent a weekend at the Amen Clinic in Newport Beach, Calif., where I found out the cause of my short-term memory loss. I’ve had this horrible concentration problem for a while now — it took me 10 days to learn nine pages of a speech, something that would probably take you one or two days to learn. It’s obvious that my brain isn’t what it used to be. I’m taking memory power boost tablets to help me every day and doing the puzzles to help me stay focused.

Toward the end of last season on the FOX pregame show, maybe the last six weeks, I really started to forget things. That’s why I quit reciting statistics because I couldn’t remember them exactly and I stayed away from mentioning some players by name because I really wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to make a mistake. I’m on national TV in front of millions and I hate making mistakes. I told the people in Ruston that I suffered six concussions and numerous head injuries. I think that’s right, but I’m not really sure.

The memory loss made me jittery at times. It was driving me crazy that I couldn’t remember something that I studied the night before. All it did was trigger my anxiety and all of sudden everything would snowball on me. I know I have depression and it’s a horrible disease. This memory loss just made my depression worse.


By looking at the damage to my own brain, I can see now what I’m dealing with and what I have to do from making it worse. I definitely have issues, but I did pass most of the tests. I know what I have to do to maintain and do the FOX show and do my speeches without worrying all the time, making myself feel worse. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something I have to stay on top of now.

I know the NFL has done a lot to help us and also to improve the conditions for today’s players in regards to helmets and head injuries. But it’s nowhere where it needs to be. Over 100 professional athletes have gone through the Amen Clinic. They are doing some amazing studies of the brain. But I really think it is important for players to talk about what they are going through after their playing days are over. The research, the talking is going to help someone else. I really believe that.

To see the video from the interview click on the link to this article below.



Bob Woodruff: Radio Interview about his Brain Injury

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 18, 2011 08:52

Bob Woodruff was 27 days into the job of a lifetime when he was nearly killed in Iraq. Now, instead of co-anchoring ABC's World News Tonight, he is working on his recovery ... avoiding war zones and advocating for soldiers with severe brain injuries.


Please check out the link below to listen to Bob's story from CBC Radio.