Harsh but fair

By Sunday, January 23, 2011 1 No tags Permalink

It’s important to remember that in sports – especially contact sports – we can only mitigate the risk of concussions. As hard as it is for many people to accept, concussions won’t just stop one day. There is no ‘solution’ to the now apparent epidemic in sports. It will take time to implement proper training to allow for better diagnosis, proper training for players on how to hit opponents (tackle, check, etc.) and proper training for referees to enforce new rules designed to protect players, and even then concussions won’t simply disappear. In the meantime, I have an idea for truly enforcing the notion that hits to the head will not be tolerated – neither intentional nor accidental. Remove the guilty player’s line-up slot from that game. By this I mean, penalize the entire team, not simply the guilty individual. In hockey, for example, 5-on-5 would become 5-on-4 not just for 2 minutes, but for the remainder of the game.

Easy now! That’s a bit extreme! Why should the whole team pay for the actions of one player?

Team sports are just that – TEAM sports. Anyone who’s played for a team that they truly cared about knows that letting down your teammates is the last thing you want to do. Not because you’re worried about retribution from the team, but because it feels crappy knowing you didn’t contribute enough to the team effort. Professional athletes must feel this way even more than people who play on club teams. The best players and the most respected teammates hate even missing practice (I’m actually a fan of Allen Iverson – listen to what he’s saying  the whole video) and to have had a dramatic, negative impact on a game and the team will certainly make individuals adapt.

But this would penalize the whole team! That’s not fair! What most fans think is “fair” is out of whack with the basic idea of sports. The field was slick, there was a gust of wind, the puck took a funny bounce off the boards, etc. All of these can “unfairly” impact a game, yet all are beyond players’ control. Fans get mad and think of ways to eliminate chance from a game played by human beings. At least this ‘unfair’ penalty is in each individual player’s control. Coaches, managers and owners will not waste much time playing players who commit “head shot penalties”.

Frankly, something needs to be done and while on the surface this seems a bit harsh, if reducing the number of head shots is the goal, then drastic action is the way to get there.

Sidney Crosby’s concussion has definitely increased the spectre of concussions in Canada. The Globe and Mail has been addressing the issue of concussions in sports for a while now. Maybe now, attention will truly be paid. Good job Globe and Mail.

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