As the National Hockey League playoffs move toward their conclusion over the coming weeks TV viewers in Canada are being offered evidence that the league is taking its responsibilities regarding traumatic brain injuries increasingly seriously.
On the ice at the pro level, new regulations now require any player who suffers a suspected head trauma to be removed from the game immediately and to spend at least 15 minutes in a “quiet room” undergoing medical evaluations. Whether the player returns to the game or not is a decision made by the doctors on site, not the coaches or the player himself. When one considers that as recently as 20 years ago many NHL players did not even wear helmets this has to be considered significant progress.
Off the ice the league is also making an effort to set a better example, particularly where impressionable youngsters are concerned. Canadian TV viewers of the hockey playoffs are repeatedly seeing a commercial urging them to visit the website of “ThinkFirst”, which describes itself as “a National charitable organization dedicated to the prevention of brain and spinal cord injuries.” At the site visitors can watch, or download for free, a 26-minute video on preventing hockey-related brain and head injuries with a particular emphasis on injury prevention among kids. Though the site is not being promoted to American viewers it is fully accessible from this side of the border.
With TV ratings for hockey slowly but steadily rising over the last few years it seems odd that no similar effort is being promoted here in the United States. Two of the three main sponsors of ThinkFirst are the shoe company Reebok and CCM, a major manufacturer of hockey equipment – both of which are significant players in their respective markets here in the US (the third sponsor is a Canadian bank). With the increased attention being paid to the dangers of traumatic brain injuries, particularly among young athletes, this would seem to be a charitable niche waiting to be filled here in the States.
From the perspective of an Oregon and Washington brain injury attorney, anything that cuts down on traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries to children has to be welcome. Lawyers are here to help families obtain justice through our court system after tragedy strikes, but it would be far better for everyone if these debilitating, often permanent, injuries to children could be avoided in the first place. Here’s hoping some forward-looking American company partners with the NHL to bring this program to the United States before the next hockey season begins in October.