Dryden talks head injuries
BY GREG HARDER, LEADER-POST APRIL 28, 2012
NHL legend Ken Dryden believes that talk can lead to action when it comes to the growing epidemic of head injuries in sports.
The Hall of Fame goaltender was optimistic that would be the case after presiding over the Brain Blitz round table in Regina on Friday. Dryden served as the keynote speaker for the afternoon discussion forum, which focused primarily on hockey but also included a wide variety of guest speakers from throughout the local sporting community - athletes, administrators and medical professionals.
Dryden, a renowned author and hockey scholar, was the architect of the thinktank session - a "Johnny Carson" sit-down format which promoted open discussion between the guests as well as the general public. Dryden believes it's critical for the people on the front lines of their respective sports to be the leaders in the head-injury debate.
"(Hopefully) each of them will go back to their organizations and say: 'Are we doing as much as we can do and is this the way to frame the question or should we be understanding it in a different way?' " said Dryden. "People talked about it in terms of respect (between players) but of course what that means is 'what is right?' in terms of the limits of what you can do on the ice. It's hits from behind and into the glass, it's use of different parts of your body for a hit to the head.
"If you can focus on them, you'll get to, I don't know if it's 50 per cent of the problem but you'll get to an awful lot of it."
Dryden also believes the focus needs to be on the serious nature of those hits rather than "offering sympathetic explanations for the person who's the perpetrator."
"That's where the shift has to happen," he continued. "It's too bad that Shea Weber is a great guy and a terrific player and it would be a real loss to Nashville and Nashville is a great story and all the rest of it. In fact the only person that matters in this is Henrik Zetterberg (whose head was recently slammed into the glass by Weber). Keep the focus there and the responses there, then you start to find more of the right answers on the other side of it."
Dryden took it a step further when asked how he would solve the NHL's headinjury problem if he was commissioner for a day.
"The first thing would be to just say that a hit to the head is an intent to injure and the penalties follow from it," he said.
"The focus of the decision is the vulnerability of the head. That's what it's about. It's not about how good a player it is, the circumstances, the playoffs, the regular season, the NHL, minor hockey, whatever it is. It's the danger of the hit to the head so every decision you make comes from that as the focus.
"Make the players responsible for their own actions."
Dryden also talked about the value of statistics and studies, which tell us where and when those injuries happen.
"Five out of 11 are face to the glass," he noted. "Four out of 11 are other hits, shoulder, elbow to the head. One was accidental and the other was a fight. It's not everybody so you focus on those things and you say, 'OK, so what's the answer to plastering somebody against the glass? What are the rule adaptations we can do?'
"You take what seems to be an incredibly complicated question and try to get it down to something that is much less complicated and in fact is much less complicated if you look at the data."
Dryden also wasn't interested in bringing the controversy over fighting into the discussion because he believes it leads to a debate that detracts from the critical big-picture issues.
"There's a far greater consequence in terms of significant injury (due to dangerous hits)," he added. "The extent to which fighting generates head injuries, that becomes part of it but most of the discussion about fighting isn't about head injuries, it's about whether you like it or you don't or you need enforcers.
"It's just a whole different debate. To me this isn't the time for it because that debate is going to end up chasing its tail again. This is a time not to chase our tails because the consequences on the head injury side are too great."
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