NHL teams allowed 31 concussed players to re-enter games in 2010-11

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08:  National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman visits the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after ringing the opening bell on October 8, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman visits the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after ringing the opening bell on October 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

As discovery continues in the concussion lawsuit filed by upwards of 80 former players against the NHL, emails between a league lawyer and Commissioner Gary Bettman reveal that 31 players who were diagnosed with a concussion returned to play in games during the 2010-11 season.

From Rick Westhead of TSN:

In all, 31 of 86 players who suffered a concussion that season, or 36 per cent, returned to play in the same game they suffered their head injury. The stats were included in a March 8, 2011, email from NHL deputy counsel Julie Grand to commissioner Gary Bettman and other NHL executives.

“Of the 86 regular season concussions this season, in 31 the player continued playing or returned to play the same game,” Grand wrote in her email. “In 13/31 the player had visible signs of concussion (wobbly, holding head, etc.) In the remaining, it’s possible that the player’s symptoms/signs did not evolve until after the game concluded which may explain their continued play.”

Interestingly, Westhead notes that within days of this email exchange, “the NHL introduced a new protocol for concussed players, directing teams to remove such players from games and send them to a ‘quiet room’ to be examined by a team doctor."

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The “36 percent” number is damning, but the reality is that 13 out of 86 players with concussions in 2010-11 had visible signs of head trauma and still returned to the game – 15 percent of all concussed players.

Now, were the other 18 players misdiagnosed? Did their symptoms manifest later? Did the players themselves attempt to get back on the ice as quickly as possible? It’s all gray area.

Read the rest of Westhead’s report here. It appears Gary Bettman’s foot-in-mouth moment when he denied any link between CTE and concussions will be used to establish a pattern of denial within the league’s approach to concussions.

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