By Ken Reed
The brain wasn’t designed to withstand repetitive blows to the head.
That’s a problem for the games of football and hockey, in which blows to the head — sometimes vicious in their impact — are all too common.
On the hockey front, legendary goalie Ken Dryden is working hard to make his game significantly more brain safe. Dryden is a Hall of Fame hockey player. After his playing days with the Montreal Canadians, he became a member of Canada’s parliament. He also has served as president of the Toronto Maple Leafs. More recently, he completed a book about brain trauma and the future of hockey called “Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador, and the Future of Hockey.” He’s passionate about the game and equally passionate about trying ensure its future by making it safer for players. He’s frustrated that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and other power brokers in the game, aren’t taking the necessary steps to do just that.
“The head hits continue,” wrote Dryden in a recent op-ed for The New York Times.
“The concussions and brain injuries continue. Their life-affecting, life-diminishing symptoms continue. It’s not that as science knows more, it will reveal that these hits are less of a problem, or that new diagnoses, treatments and protocols will result in injured players being doctored back to full, or near-full health. There’s not one doctor or researcher who believes that. What we will come to know about the impact of these injuries in the future will make what we now know seem benign.”
Too many Old Time Hockey aficionados, along with hockey businessmen like Bettman, continue to believe that hockey needs violence, including some degree of fighting, in order to be commercially viable. Dryden isn’t among them. He believes hockey can be a fast, tough game AND be played in a head-smart way. He thinks the solution is simple, if not easy to implement due to pushback from the game’s traditionalists.
“The real answer is what it’s always been,” wrote Dryden in his Times piece.
“Nearly a century ago, penalties were introduced in hockey for high-sticking and elbowing, recognizing the special vulnerability of the head. The rules need only be extended to other hits to the head. The brain doesn’t distinguish whether it is struck by a stick, elbow, shoulder or any other part of the body. Or whether a hit is intentional or accidental, legal or illegal. The damage is the same. As Terry Gregson, a longtime N.H.L. referee and former head of the league’s officiating, has said, go into the N.H.L. rule book, find Rule 48.1, ‘Illegal Check to the Head,’ and delete one word. There should be no such thing as a ‘legal‘ hit to the head….
“To play this game of today and of tomorrow, players need their full physical capacities, and they need the full capacities of their brains.”
And they’ll need the full capacities of their brains to live a quality life after their playing days are over.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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