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Who is at fault for traumatic brain injuries in hockey?

We frequently write about the consequences of traumatic brain injuries in this Ann Arbor Personal Injury Law Blog. Brain injuries can result in long-term side-effects or even permanent disabilities, as well as overwhelming medical expenses. They can take place in car accidents, workplace accidents, construction accidents and even simple falls--any blow to the head can result in a TBI. These days, we often see news reports about athletes sustaining brain injuries and a recent study came up with an interesting theory about that.

One of the sports most often associated with TBI is ice hockey, in large part because hockey players often fight on the ice and this can result in heads crashing into the ice or Plexiglas walls. A recent study suggests that one reason hockey has become more and more violent in recent years is because the media encourages aggressive play.

Researchers affiliated with St. Michael's Hospital's Injury Prevention Research Office and Division of Neurosurgery in Toronto studied newspaper reports published between 1985 and 2011 in four cities that have National Hockey League Teams. Their study found that for many years both U.S. and Canadian sports reporters covered the sport as if TBI was simply a part of the game of hockey, and in the U.S. TBI was only covered when it affected stars. In recent years, the brain injuries of lesser known players have also been reported.

In more recent years, news reports in the U.S. have also begun to stress the need to keep violence out of youth hockey, as well as call on the NHL to prevent TBI.

In conclusion, the reporters believe media coverage can help to either normalize or discourage aggressive behavior in hockey, and for many years it may have encouraged violence but the pendulum is now swaying to the other side.

It certainly seems like the risk of a life-changing head injury should not be a part of any sport. Hopefully, as TBI has been getting many more headlines lately, this will become a much less accepted part of certain sports. When people sustain head injuries in any type of accident, they may benefit from seeking medical attention and legal advice.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Is the media to blame for the brain injuries of hockey players?" Karen Kaplan, April 17, 2013

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