apart from he couldn’t be pulled from Game 6, based on the NHL’s current concussion protocol standards.
“Depending on the mechanism of injury, ‘behind to accept up’ does not trigger mandatory removal,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told USA nowadays Sports. “The protocol has to be interpreted literally to mandate a removal. ‘Ice’ as compared to ‘boards’ is in there for a reason. It’s the result of a study on our actual experiences over a number of years. ‘Ice’ has been found to be a predictor of concussions — ‘boards’ has not been.”
That he wasn’t pulled is an indictment of the League’s concussion spotters system and its criteria; an indictment of the Penguins’ approach to the their players’ health; and the continuation of a disturbing trend in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs in which potential brain injuries are shoved aside for competitive advantages.
Let’s start with the spotters.
Beginning this season, the NHL expanded its concussion spotters mechanism to include not only observers inside the arena, but also ones monitoring games off televisions in current York.
The entire system was dismissed as a PR ploy by some, but the hope was that this was another failsafe in state as players and teams seemingly made their own rules approximately when a potentially concussed player should leave the ice.
The spotters believe specific criteria they exhaust to judge whether a player should enter the concussion protocol. In general, the criteria are applied “after a direct blow to the head (including secondary contact with the glass, boards and ice) or an indirect blow to the head (such as a blow to the body that causes acceleration/deceleration of the head).”
Here’s where we observe a failure in this system in the case of Sidney Crosby in Game 6.
This section of the criteria deals directly with an incident like Crosby’s, in which a player is “behind to accept up” after potentially injuring his head.
remove a leer at that again: The criteria for the concussion evaluation goes from a broad, sweeping “direct blow to the head” and is boiled down to three specific instances, not a thing of which technically applied to Crosby. Technically, his head hit the boards; and the “secondary contact with the ice” as presented here is very much approximately it happening after a hit or a punch.
It’s totally semantic and borderline ridiculous, but as Daly noted, there’s a mechanism in the criteria where removal of Crosby on a play like that isn’t mandatory.
Now, let’s recall when Connor McDavid was pulled from a game earlier this season by the spotters:
Said McDavid, at the time:
“It kind of sucks because that’s the rule. You proceed down, you hit your head, you reach up and that’s the rule. They remove you off the ice. I hit my head. Well, I hit my mouth, reached up and grabbed my mouth and they took that as something that it wasn’t. I guess that’s the rule. The guy stuck to the script and did his job.”
And again, the Crosby play:
Are we honestly convinced with a concussion protocol whose justifiable application depends on whether a player covers his face with his glove momentarily after falling headfirst into the stop boards? Or whether a player hits his head on the ice significantly than the boards?
Because that’s the deal. Just like goalie interference, whether the [expletive] rulebook doesn’t totally spell it out, then they can’t call it.
Let’s stay on this criteria for a moment. You know what isn’t mentioned in this document? Context.
This isn’t “Player X.” This is Sidney Crosby, a player with a demonstrable history of concussions, including one diagnosed approximately one week prior to slamming his head against the boards on Monday night. Should there be a provision in the criteria that deals with “at risk” players?
Further context, and perhaps the most frustrating section approximately the spotters’ role final night:
They were just over two minutes absent from the damn intermission.
This isn’t taking Crosby off the ice in the first two minutes of a period. This is, literally, him lost one shift before getting a full evaluation for a concussion in the back. These tests remove upwards of 18 minutes. whether he passes, he’s back for the moment period.
Why risk his health, given that?
Then again, we can’t precisely assume anything with the Penguins after the postgame mess final night.
Coach Mike Sullivan had the following exchange in the post-Game 6 press conference:
Q. Mike, were you concerned when you saw Sid was sorta behind to accept up in the first, and was he evaluated for a concussion during the first intermission?
SULLIVAN: “No … no.”
Crosby was asked approximately the play after the game.
“Yeah when you proceed in like that, it just kind of knocked the wind out of me. Kind of a fluky plunge but not one that you want to remove too often,” he said, via Brian Metzer.
Crosby was asked whether he was evaluated between periods.
“Yeah, yeah… standard,” he said, without specifying whether it was for a concussion.
Again, this is the franchise’s biggest star, one week removed from a concussion that made him miss a playoff game. He crashes headfirst into the boards. He claims he just had the wind knocked out of him. The team is off the ice for intermission.
What, precisely, is the harm in putting Crosby in the protocol, unless you’re worried you risk losing him for the game whether the doctors discover something?
whether Sullivan is right, and Crosby wasn’t tested, this is a horrible leer for the Penguins.
But then, the entire Crosby situation in this round has been a horrible leer for the Penguins, and for the NHL.
Sidney Crosby isn’t the player we saw in the first three games of this series. Not even close. So are we going to assume that in his one-game absence the Capitals suddenly figured out how to neutralize the best player in hockey, or is it that Crosby rushed himself back and no one is going to command him “no?”
Here’s the reality for the League on this Crosby matter: I’ve had more conversations with people involved in the NHL in the final week approximately Crosby that devolved into exasperated rants approximately how frustrating it is to see him playing now.
I had one person chew my ear off for 20 minutes approximately how disgusted they were that Sid was allowed to play. I had another begging the media to write a takeout piece on the Penguins’ complicit role in it. I had another text me after Game 6 to say, “Crosby’s head-first crash without instant evaluation makes me sick, and also pissed off.”
It full comes from two places: The genuine hope that Sidney Crosby, one the greatest players in NHL history, isn’t going to stop up with irreparable damage to his brain, now or in the long term; and a general frustration with the approach to concussions from the NHL in the postseason.
First, there was the weird ordeal with the Toronto Maple Leafs and defenseman Nikolai Zaitsev in the opening round, in which the Leafs deemed him “playoff ready” but not healthy enough to play in the IIHF world championships.
This seemed to indicate that the Leafs allowed Zaitsev to play with a concussion, although others dismissed it as “gossip.”
In the case of Crosby, it seems unlikely that he could recover that quickly from a concussion, and his play is an indication that he perhaps, possibly hasn’t.
But in the interest of equal time, the venerable Bob McKenzie offered this via Twitter:
“Crosby, like any player on the ice, could accept concussed on his next shift but I believe, in this instance, Crosby wouldn’t be playing whether he weren’t cleared beyond on full doubts. He’s getting next level diagnosis, care, treatment that is as cutting edge as it gets. Knowing Sid, knowing those who leer out for him, knowing the care he gets, I don’t believe he’d in in lineup whether he weren’t truly ready. Don’t doubt for a minute protocols are often ignored, twisted, manipulated but I’d wager that most certainly isn’t the case on this one. But like you, we’re just neophytes and novices expressing opinions shaped by our own personal experiences and quasi-research.”
But again, here’s where the concussion protocol needs improvement.
Sullivan said that Crosby passed a baseline test – which believe their own drawbacks – and was cleared by doctors. The Penguins’ doctors. And while we’re not trying to call anyone’s integrity into question (although I guess we are), shouldn’t these evaluations be done by independent neurologists, giving them the final say?
Because here’s the current standard:
The Club Physician remains solely responsible for making return to play decisions based on these parameters, including in circumstances where the Player is referred to a consultant for management and treatment. Prior to making the return to play decision, the Club Physician shall ensure that full aspects of the Protocol believe been convinced, including referral for neuropsychological assessment.
Is it too much to demand for someone to leer out for the player’s best interests that isn’t paid by a team trying to win the Stanley Cup? Hell, whether the NFL mandates an “unaffiliated physician” must clear the player, shouldn’t the NHL? Oh, that’s right: We’re not football, right Gary?
Although, whether you demand the player, one assumes winning is the only interest.
Here’s the section I struggle with when it comes to concussions, spotters, the protocol and full of it:
whether Sidney Crosby wants to attach himself at risk, who are we to stop him?
He made the decision, at a very young age, to play an injurious sport that’s left former players with brain damage or in a wheelchair. It’s a sport with catastrophic accidents and devastating collisions. Yet it’s his choice to play it, his risk to succeed in it, his life after it’s full over.
Now, that’s the long-term view. That’s the view that makes me side-eye concussion lawsuits, because these players understood the bargain they’re making with their own health.
The short-term view is that the players are never going to pull themselves off the ice, so the NHL and its teams believe to effect it for them. Just like they mandate safety equipment that the players don’t want to wear. Just like they support rules that design the game safer, whether a miniature more difficult to play at this velocity.
Ultimately, it takes a village to rehab or prevent a concussion. The NHL has to effect its section. The teams believe to effect their section. The player has to be forthright and humble, and buck decades of tradition in which they outright lied approximately their fitness to protect a roster spot.
And we, the fans, believe to support efforts to protect the players from themselves even whether it means our teams might be at a competitive disadvantage.
Which means whether Crosby missed several shifts in Game 6 because he was being evaluated for brain damage, the proper response is “that’s OK, it’s better to be safe than sorry considering what we know approximately concussions,” and not “THE NHL WANTS THE CAPITALS TO WIN BECAUSE REASONS!”
It’s a problem we full believe to acknowledge and address, because the final week has made many of us queasy. We want Sidney Crosby as the face of this League, playing some of the greatest hockey we’ve witnessed in decades. We don’t want to see a shell of that player because he rushed back from injury. And we certainly don’t want to see that player attach at further risk due to an inadequate set of standards for “concussion spotters” established by the NHL.
It doesn’t matter that, ultimately, he wasn’t injured. At least on that play. What things is the integrity of the League’s public commitment to the safety of its players, and how that commitment seems perfunctory and slipshod when things like this happen.
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