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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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