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Hockey players risk serious bodily harm - after concussion

Published: 9 November 2011

New research shows that players in elithockey suffering from concussion may poorer balance a long time and increase the risk of serious sports injuries.

Tackles to the head are common in the Elite League hockey in Sweden. Especially this season, the situation appears to have hardened on ice, and several players have had a severe concussions after tackles against their heads. Swedish medical hockey club in Sweden, the league coaches and hockeyreferees now react and are worried.

- When you get a concussion, the brain's nerve fibers are torn apart and you get little bleeding in the brain cells and a change in cell metabolism. If you get a few concussions, no problem, but repeated concussions especially after minor violence can cause long term problems, says Yelverton Tegner.

Since 1974, Yelverton Tegner has been a doctor for the first league team Lulea Hockey. Now as a professor of medical science at the university, he shows alarming results of  research on the effects of concussion in Elite League hockey.

In Luleå Hockey Elite League, already six players havde suffered concussion after 20 matches played, as well as pre-season. Ptrevious years players also received concussions but Jonas Rönnqvist, coach of Luleå hockey experience that they were more lenient than today. Now, it takes longer for the players to recover. He believes that the cause of this is the new hockey.

- The speed of the game has increased and the players are more fit as they come in with greater force  in tackles than before, he says.

He mentions in particular the tackles against Frölunda Magnus Kahnberg 5 November and the Lulea Hockey Jonas Berglund in early October in the match against Brynäs. Both players suffered severe concussions. Jonas Rönnqvist feel that the mentality of the players on the pitch has changed. He thinks that elite hockey has become an extreme sport.

- Now it's more like a game of life and death, the players are more reckless and shows less respect for each other. This applies more to survive and to win and then hardens mentality on the ice. Respect for each other must increase, he says.

What attracted Yelverton Tegners interest in research on concussion and Elite League hockey in Sweden was hockey legend Tomas Javeblad that after repeated concussions suffered both physical and mental, so that he had to quit with hockey. Tomas Javeblad suffered in particular from what he himself describes as emotional blunting, and sudden aggression.

- Concussion, unlike all other sports injuries, must be rested away, but we find it difficult to safely determine when a player is sufficiently recovered to play again. It is also the case that other parts of the brain takes over while the wounded heal, so despite the fact that hockey players are symptom-free is still a healing process going on. That is what is the danger of it all, says Yelverton Tegner.

Research on how the balance is affected by a concussion and what impact it may have been carried out by Yelverton Tegner at Luleå University of Technology in collaboration with Professor Jack Lysholm, research director at the Västerbotten County Council and Winternet. All league players of Lulea Hockey Association has been part of the test. They had to test their balance before and after a possible concussion.

- It turned out that the balance worsened for those who suffered concussion, a long time after an injury, but it did not as a consequence, gave them more injuries than other players, but more severe injuries and longer absences than other players, says Yelverton Tegner.

Yelverton Tegner lectured on the topic in the context of popular science lectures at Luleå University of Technology.

On Thursday evening he will participate in the substance of the debate on SVT 1 , at  22:00.