The dangers of head hits in hockey
Posted at: 03/05/2013 5:16 PM
By: Robin De Wind | WHEC.com
It was the push seen around the NHL and it got players, fans and doctors talking. The Sabres Patrick Kaleta was suspended five games for a dangerous shove that sent the Rangers Brad Richards into the boards.
A local doctor says the best thing that can come from this kind of incident is "awareness", from the pro level all the way down to pee-wee players.
The shove could have resulted in a catastrophic injury. It was early in the third period of Sunday’s Sabres game with the Rangers when Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta shoved Brad Richards from behind into the half boards. Kaleta was assessed a five-minute major for checking from behind and given a game misconduct. If Richards was hit straight on the top of his head, instead of slightly turning his head to the side, he could have had a life-altering injury..
Richards had little time to react and cushion his blow with his hands. While the hit looks like a shove, University of Rochester Medical Center spine surgeon Dr. Robert Molinari says the cross check could easily have cause Richards to be a quadriplegic. When the neck is straight rather than flexed, naturally, it can lead to these rare catastrophic spinal injuries. Dr. Molinari says awareness is key.
Dr. Robert Molinari said, “I think the awareness should be raised as to the potential of this injury. This is a rare injury. 1,200 to one chances of this happening, but there needs to be increased awareness to players. You need to see what you are contacting with. Keep your eyes on the subject you are hitting and do not flex your head straight.”
Hockey, football boxing and soccer are the four contact sports where this injury can occur. The NFL has come down hard on this issue and player safety. The NHL has been criticized for being inconsistent so the hit by Kaleta could prove to raise more awareness about the dangers and deter players from making these kinds of hits.