Hockey Hunks Hitting Heads

NHL players losing more game time with recurring concussions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Macho guys used to feel a sense of bravado returning to competition soon after head injuries. Expressions such as "Be a man" or "Maybe that will knock some sense into you" were not helpful. Doctors have now developed a greater appreciation for sidelining professional athletes for a longer time after recurrent concussions. 

A new study showed an actual decrease in the number of concussions from the 1997-2004 National Hockey League (NHL) seasons. The good news is the time between the concussion and returning to the rink has increased.

"Sideline your athlete after recurrent concussions."

Dr. Brian Benson, Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary and coauthor of this study, suggests athletes need to report their injuries to their trainers so medical staff can complete an evaluation for possible concussions.

In this large study, physicians from the NHL looked at data on 559 regular season game concussions from 1997-2004. Typical time loss in days increased by 2.25 times during the study period for every recurrent concussion.

The findings suggest that more conservative or precautionary measures should be taken in the immediate post concussion period.  While concussion symptoms resolve over time if they are appropriately managed, concussions can end an athlete's career if they return to play too soon after their injuries. 

The United States has an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related brain injuries each year.  Benson suggested more education is needed about all sports injuries and the adverse effects which can occur if one continues playing after a head injury.

In Depth

  • The estimated incidence was 1.8 concussions per 1,000 player-hours
  • The postconcussion headache occurred 71 percent of the time. Dizziness occurred 34 percent of the time
  • Nausea occurred 24 percent of the time, neck pain 23 percent of the time, low energy/fatigue 23 percent, blurred vision 22 percent, amnesia 21 percent, and loss of consciousness 18 percent
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 19, 2011
Last Updated:
April 23, 2011