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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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