Concussions are a Headache for the NHL and NFL

Sports Litigation Alert (Volume 8 Issue 7) just published an article I wrote entitled, “Concussions are a Headache for the NHL and NFL.”  Here are a few excerpts:


Brian Burke, Harvard-trained lawyer and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, referred to concussions as the “topic du jour” earlier this year. While Burke may be guilty of not being politically correct in his characterization of brain injuries sustained in the course of playing a game, his colorful comments may properly place the issue into perspective.

The National Football League doesn’t care about intent. It only cares about the harm suffered. If the head shot is deemed dangerous, the offending player is penalized. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t mean to do it.

Even the International Ice Hockey Federation and the NCAA prohibit any hit to the head regardless of whether it was intentional or unintentional.

The International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency have the same strict liability approach to doping. WADA holds an athlete strictly liable for substances found in his or her bodily specimen, and that an anti-doping violation occurs whenever a prohibited substance (or its metabolites or markers) is found in a sample, whether or not the athlete intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance.

If the National Hockey League is serious about hits to the head and brain injuries, they should tear a page from the playbooks of the NCAA, the IOC, and WADA and adopt a strict liability approach to hits to the head.


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