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Study looks at NHL brain injuries

As the National Hockey League season begins, NHL officials and medical professionals are focusing on the potential for serious head and brain injuries in hockey players. In a recent study, researchers found that direct hits by other players, head shots with parts of the body and injuries from fights were most likely to cause lasting harm in NHL players.

Recently, a group of doctors and neurosurgeons conducted a study into the lasting effects of head and brain injuries in hockey players, the results of which were presented at a recent meeting about concussion prevention at a Toronto hospital. The study looked at approximately 200 concussions sustained by NHL players between 2007 and 2010, analyzing video clips of the incidents that led to the brain injuries and attempting to determine the most common hits that led to lasting harm.

The study concluded that players in the positions of forward are more likely to sustain a head injury because they are more likely to have possession of the puck, and are therefore more commonly a target of members of the opposing team. They also cover the entire rink, and there are more of them on the ice during games.

Researchers also found that brain injuries are more likely to occur in the first period of the hockey game. This is different than other hockey-related injuries, which tend to occur with more frequency during the later periods of the game.

In addition, the study found that there were not a lot of penalties called on the type of hits that were most likely to result in concussions. Hopefully, the NHL will consider changing its regulations in order to prevent brain injuries in its players.

Source: ESPN, "Concussions study to be presented," Sept. 16, 2011

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