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Discussion Starter #1
As a scientist, I'm always intrigued by explanations that point to things happening for reasons one didn't really think of, but make perfect sense post hoc.

So I was particularly intrigued by an interview with Ken Dryden this morning on CBC's The Current. Dryden was there to promote a book he wrote about Steve Montador, and how Montador's cumulative head injuries led to CTE and eventually his untimely death. Dryden came down hard on the NHL, and was actioning for a no-head-shots-EVER policy.

But the part that intrigued me was his explanation for why concussions and CTE has become the problem it has in pro hockey. He noted that in the early days of the NHL, the game was much slower. People may remember it as being fast, but it was played more slowly, with the odd burst of energy. The reason, he postulates, is that players were expected to play the full 60 minutes, as they do in soccer. Over time, that changed to ever-shortening shifts, to the point now where shifts average out around 35 or so seconds. The shorter shifts lead to players hitting the ice with more energy and speed, making the game more exciting. But it is that speed that renders hits having greater impact and being that much more dangerous over the long haul, even though equipment adaptations keep on improving, nd players themselves are not necessarily ny more brutal or reckless.

The Current for October 16, 2017
 

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I read his article last week on the topic.
its a really complicated situation.
as much as the league likes to say that "equipment has improved" ie helmets, at the same time, its "improved" in other ways that give players more speed, and incorporates more hard plastic in equipment that turns safety equipment into a weapon.
The other thing that is so rarely talked about, is that you don't even need to be hit in the head in order to get a concussion. a jarring force to the body can do it as well. its all about how the forces get transmitted to the head. focussing on making the perfect helmet will not end concussions.

theres more to why the game is faster today than Kens reason...players today are better skaters, in better physical shape, and have lighter, faster equipment. Force someone like Sidney Crosby to NOT go to the gym for 2-3 years, and put on the old leather equipment skates and flimsy shoulder pads etc and you'll see the difference. but you would still likely find that todays players are generally bigger on average than yesteryears.
NHL Player Size From 1917-18 to 2014-15: A Brief Look
 

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I also heard that interview - or at least most of it. What I found most interesting/amusing was the way he called out Gary Bettman - not so subtly appealing to Mr. Bettman's insatiable ego.

I have friends who know the game that tell me that if you took the best players from the seventies and dropped them into the NHL today, they wouldn't make the fourth line on the worst team in the league - mostly due to the vastly superior conditioning of today's players.
 

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As a hockey fan, I need to hear that interview.

I met Ken Dryden at a book signing many years ago in Owen Sound. He was very good with the public and seemed to have time for everyone. He's a smart guy who can work a crowd, sincere and genuine.
 

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That makes a lot of sense. Also consider that when the player cycles back on the ice, he's likely to take a harder hit every shift. As we know, these types of injuries are cumulative.
 

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I have friends who know the game that tell me that if you took the best players from the seventies and dropped them into the NHL today, they wouldn't make the fourth line on the worst team in the league - mostly due to the vastly superior conditioning of today's players.
I believe that's true. Theres a lot of money in the business of hockey now, which leads to better tech, and essentially a "hockey player machine" churning out better physical specimens.
Yeah, cutting out the smokes between periods definitely changed things. :D


Here's the text interview Ken did with Macleans. I also like how he emphasized that it's Bettman that has to make decisions.
Here's how Gary Bettman can fix hockey. It's easy. - Macleans.ca
It definitely has to come from Bettman. he has many faults, and i dont agree with everythimg hes done, but hes already changed the game drastically. Fights are non existent. The type of players built specifically for fighting, are essentially gone, although a few "hybrids" still exist....guys like Lucic. Size is no longer crucial to being an NHL player. And the way defense is played has dramatically changed, now that defenders are greatly restricted in terms of what they can do to opponents in front of their net. Even goaltending which IMO has been harshly scrutinized, has changed. Todays goalies are big, bigger than ever, but they are also fast and agile. I don't criticize their size any more than I criticize NBA teams drafting 7' freaks of nature....err...players that can practically reach the rim with both feet on the ground. Sure they take some of the fun out of the game, but its essentially fair.
 

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Getting rid of concussions is impossible in a contact sport...IMPOSSIBLE. Head shots, legal or illegal, will happen because that many bodies going that fast means collisions, intentional or not, will happen. Complicating matters further is that concussions can occur without head contact so if you are really serious about eliminating concussions then ALL contact needs to be deemed illegal. Again, even in non-contact hockey, collisions occur because there are still a lot of big bodies moving very quickly in a small area...accidents happen. What then?

Football is in the same boat. Players are bigger and faster than they were 50 years ago and despite recent efforts to curb "head shots" there are still several guys concussed (and I'm sure there are more that don't get documented every game) per game, per week. Similar to the point @mhammer highlighted about shorter shifts in today's NHL, the NFL has done it's best to keep the pace of the game up by rotating players to keep them fresher and faster...if you're only going to be on the field for 35 plays per game instead of 60 or 70 then you're going to do your damnedest to make sure you make those plays count by fighting for that extra yard by taking an extra hit or two. How do you eliminate concussions in a game that requires you to contact a player to end the play?

The way both games are played today, is it even possible to fathom them ever being concussion-free? Can you remove contact from those games and still keep the fanbase? I think that's the ultimate question, can the NFL/NHL make enough money with a non-contact version of their respective games?

Personally, I'd watch non-contact hockey. It would take some adjustment in attitude, that's for sure, but I could certainly watch it. Put them on Olympic sized ice or make it 4-on-4 (or even 3-on-3) on North American ice and I'd tune in. It's not for everybody, and I get that, but if the ultimate goal is to produce entertainment for the masses where owners make a buck and players can earn a living while reducing their risk of developing a very serious health condition then it's certainly worth exploring. I don't know that I'd be able to watch "touch" football, though. I think it's a great game to play but paying money to watch it...I don't think so.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Can concussions be eliminated? Not bloody likely. Accidents happen, and it's not like the boards are padded. Is it worth taking steps to reduce them as much as possible, "to the point of undue hardship"? Certainly. "Entertainment" is no excuse.
 

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Where theres big money involved, "entertainment" may be an excuse. Look at boxing for example. MMA is just an accident waiting to happen.
 

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Expecting total elimination of concussions is somewhat of a strawman arguement, though I don't think anyone here is saying "100% or don't bother".
Has MADD eliminated drunk driving? But have they made a difference? Was it worthwhile?
 

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Expecting total elimination of concussions is somewhat of a strawman arguement, though I don't think anyone here is saying "100% or don't bother".
Has MADD eliminated drunk driving? But have they made a difference? Was it worthwhile?
I think they have. Education is a big part of both understanding consequences and reducing risk. So I’d agree with you.
 
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