There’s no denying that the NFL has a serious issue with concussions. After years of trying to sweep it under the rug, they’ve since come around to establishing procedures for dealing with concussed players. But what about the NHL? Is the group that governs the professional league of Canada’s most loved sport playing in the same headspace?
A leading expert on traumatic brain injury (TBI) speaking in Vancouver last month suggested that professional hockey may be in the same state of denial football found itself in a few years back. Examining the incidences and consequences of concussions and brain injuries on NFL players, there are parallels and concerns for all players – whether they’re sporting cleats or skates.
Dr. Frank Conidi presented findings of an initial study of 40 retired NFL players (the study has since expanded to include 80 to 100 participants). Most shockingly, he reported that almost half of those in the study showed evidence of brain abnormalities.
Speaking in April at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Dr. Conidi pointed out that players came to him with other serious problems resulting from their head injuries. Anxiety, depression, sleep and attention issues, as well as executive functioning, learning, and memory problems were experienced by many of his patients.
“You see NFL players retiring over head injuries,” Condini added. Given that the median age for the players in the study was just under 36 years, these are serious concerns for a group of men in the prime of their lives.
In the defensive zone
Dr. Conidi is no stranger to treating patients with sports related brain injuries. He’s the director of the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology, specializing in the treatment of sports related neurological disorders. He’s also team neurologist for the Florida Panthers and a consulting neurologist for the Miami Dolphins and NY Mets.
A former hockey player, Conidi knows the risks associated with our national pastime: “Hockey has the highest incidence of concussion per participant, at any level.”
With many high profile hockey players experiencing concussions, Conidi’s research shows that our love for sport must be tempered by an equally dedicated drive for protecting players from brain injury.