Study: concussion in NHL leads quickly to retirement


The Journal of Neurotrauma, a leading medical journal, published a unique and fascinating study in early March. Instead of focusing on the long-term effects of concussions on athlete health, the authors looked at the very short-term effects of concussion on the lives of NHL hockey players.

TSN Brother Rick Westhead revealed the existence of this study earlier this week. I have obtained the complete study and its contents tend to show that the players of the NHL are totally wrong in not campaigning more actively to mitigate the scourge of blows to the head.

So a concussion is not an injury that “maybe” will affect their quality of life in 20 or 25 years. It is a disaster that will have almost immediate effects in their lives.


The study in question is entitled The Short ‐ Term Impact of Concussion in the NHL: an Analysis of Player Longevity, Performance, and Financial Loss (The Short-Term Impacts of Concussions in the NHL: An Analysis of Player Longevity, Performance, and Financial Losses). Its authors are Prem Ramkumar, an orthopedic surgeon from Cleveland, and Sergio Navarro, a medical student at Baylor University in Houston.

Ramkumar and Navarro conclude that when compared to players who have not had a concussion, affected players see their performance and salary decline, in addition to losing valuable career years.

During this study, we examined the 2,194 players who played at least one full season (41 games or more) in the NHL between 2008 and 2017.

Here are the most significant passages:

– During those 9 seasons, 309 NHL players suffered 399 concussions which have been publicly established as such by teams or players.

– The group of concussed players was compared to the group of players who were lucky enough to avoid this type of injury thanks to the “Kaplan-Meier survivor curve”. It is a scientific model used in several fields, whether it is to measure the survival rate of patients after receiving a certain type of treatment, to measure the lifespan of certain mechanical parts or to establish how long it will take an unemployed person. , on average, to find a new job.

– One year after suffering a concussion, a player has a 65% chance of having retained a position in the NHL compared to a non-concussion. Three years after suffering a concussion, a player has a 35% chance of having retained a position in the NHL compared to a non-concussion. Five years after sustaining a concussion, the odds of a concussion drop to 14.6%, compared to 43.7% for non-concussion!

It’s huge!

– The careers of hockey players participating in the NHL concussion protocol end on average 2.1 seasons after injury.

– Players with concussions suffered an average annual loss of wages of US $ 390,000 in the first contract negotiated after suffering a concussion. The players in the other group, all positions included, saw their average salary increase. Concussion contracts were also shorter, almost a season, on average.

– Players with more than one concussion have seen their compensation drop even more dramatically.

– The centers saw their offensive production decline by 4.2 points the season following their concussion and their annual salary decreased by an average of US $ 498,000 in the next contract. The concussed wingers posted an offensive production 3.2 points lower the following season and suffered an average wage loss of US $ 425,000 thereafter.

– Concussion goaltenders have averaged 8.4 fewer wins per season and have allowed 19.3 more goals. Concussion guards still managed to get pay increases, but those for non-concussed guards were almost twice as high.


Patrice Bergeron and Sidney CrosbyView larger image (New window)

Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby

Photo: Getty Images / Justin K. Aller

« The much lower professional survival rate of concussed players suggests that these injuries have underestimated consequences for players’ ability to continue their careers in the short term, » the authors write.

Of course, all kinds of factors influence the longevity, production and compensation of NHL players. But since the age curves of the two groups are roughly identical, it seems pretty clear that a concussion is a massacre, the effects of which are usually quite immediate in a player’s career and within a team.

For every Sidney Crosby or Patrice Bergeron, who have managed to regain the same level of excellence after suffering brain injuries, many other players quickly found themselves retired without really understanding why.

For example, considering what happened with the Canadiens this season, can anyone say with confidence that Andrew Shaw will still be playing in the NHL in two years? He has suffered three severe concussions in the past 15 months.

What about Carey Price? Will he end up in the same group as Crosby or the other? If his recent concussion were to subtract 8.4 wins from his best possible record next season, we would be talking about 17 points less in the standings for the CH. This factor alone could wipe out all of the leadership’s rebuilding efforts.

The leaders of the Players’ Association should pay close attention to this new study. And Gary Bettman too, he who still denies that a link can exist between concussions and the health of the players.


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