Drew Tate (left) took a hard hit Sunday, but returned to the game after passing concussion tests. (CP)A head injury suffered by Hamilton Bulldogs forward Blake Geoffrion and the questions surrounding Calgary Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate's 'I don't remember the first half' comment have once again brought the issue of concussions and player safety in contact sports to the forefront.
It was Saturday that 24-year-old Geoffrion of the AHL's Bulldogs was streaking down the wing in a game against the Syracuse Crunch at the Bell Centre when Crunch defenseman J.P. Cote delivered a crushing hit that sent him airborne. The hit wasn't a shot to the head or vicious in any way, but Geoffrion unfortunately hit the ice head first and while he walked away, he was shortly after rushed to the hospital with what was later referred to as a depressed skull fracture.
Tate on the other hand took a hit to the head from Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive tackle Tearrius George in the second quarter of the Stampeders-Roughriders semifinal Sunday and the 28-year-old fell to the turf grimacing and grabbing his head. George was called for roughing the passer and Tate walked off the field, was put through CFL concussion protocol and returned to the game to lead the Stamps to a 36-30 win.
But it was Tate's comments at halftime that raised eyebrows around the CFL. TSN's Farhan Lalji pulled him aside on the sideline prior to the second half to discuss the first two quarters of the game and Tate proceeded to say, "I got hit in the head [and] I don't even remember the first half. As Andrew Bucholtz pointed out, his post-game comments 'that he just got his bell rung' weren't reassuring either.
Tuesday, sports leaders and executives met at the Westin Harbour Hotel in downtown Toronto for the second day of the Prime Time Sports Management Conference. Player safety was a subtopic of one of the day's sessions with Dave Andrews, president and CEO of the American Hockey League and Michael Copeland, Chief Operating Officer on hand to discuss player safety issues in their respective sports.
"I think we are ahead of the game a little bit in terms of expanding concussion protocol," Copeland said, referring to the Tate incident. "If medical staff is suspicious of a player receiving a concussion then the protocol is to remove that player from play.
"[Drew] Tate took a tough hit, but he cleared all the concussion tests."
The hit Tate took was deemed an illegal play and though it will never be fully abolished from the game's landscape it can be deterred through penalties and suspensions. But one of Dave Andrew's biggest concerns when it comes to head injuries specifically in hockey is that many of the injuries aren't a result of illegal hits.
"Out of the 135-140 concussions last year more than 100 of them were not the result of an illegal hit," Andrews said. "Even with our news with boarding rules and head checking rules, they're happening because of the speed and the physical contact in the game."
And he echoes those feelings when it comes to the hit on Geoffrion.
"We recently saw a very tragic, almost very tragic incident involving Blake Geoffrion on a hit that was one I don't think anyone in our business would say was a dirty hit or illegal hit. It was part of the game and had really bad consequences.
"It's equipment, it's guys being big and fast, the game is physical and we haven't found a solution yet I don't think. I think the leadership needs to come into kind of a multi-faceted leadership approach. I think the equipment companies are part of it [and] I think the National Hockey League is a crucial part of it."