Objectives: To examine the longitudinal media reported rate of concussions in the National Hockey League (NHL) over the period 1986-87 to 2001-02.
Methods: All injury reports published in the weekly sports newspaper The Hockey News for the 16 seasons 1986-87 through 2001-02 were reviewed for reported concussions. The Hockey News reports are based on weekly injury reports released by the NHL, which derive from reports submitted to the league by individual team offices.
Results: Adjusted for changes in the number of teams and games per season over the 16 year study period, and expressed as: number of concussions per 1000 games, results by season (starting with 1986-87) were 4, 8, 7, 7, 5, 5, 7, 7, 6, 8, 13, 20, 30, 27, 30, 25. Comparing each season with the prior season, significant increases were reported in 1997-98 and 1998-99 (p < 0.05 and 0.025, respectively), with no change since 1998-99.
Conclusions: The reported concussion rate in the NHL during the last five years is more than triple that of the previous decade. Bigger, faster players, new equipment and harder boards and glass have all theoretically increased the risk of concussion in the NHL in recent years. However, the abrupt increase and subsequent plateau in concussion rate since 1997 suggests that increased recognition and reporting may be primarily responsible for the apparent increase in incidence.