An Insider’s Look at Concussions in the NHL: Types, Diagnosis and Treatment

Types of Concussions in the NHL

Concussions are a significant concern in the National Hockey League (NHL) due to the physical nature of the sport. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects brain function temporarily. In the NHL, players can experience different types of concussions, varying in severity and presentation. Here are some common types of concussions seen in the NHL:

1. Acute Concussions

Acute concussions are the most common type of concussion in the NHL. They occur as a result of a sudden impact or blow to the head during gameplay. Acute concussions can cause a range of symptoms, including headache, dizziness, confusion, sensitivity to light or noise, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating. Players with acute concussions may be temporarily removed from the game for evaluation and undergo a concussion protocol before returning to play.

2. Subacute Concussions

Subacute concussions refer to concussions that persist beyond the acute phase but do not extend into the chronic phase. These concussions can present with ongoing symptoms, such as persistent headaches, cognitive difficulties, balance issues, or emotional disturbances. Subacute concussions require comprehensive evaluation and management to ensure proper recovery before players can safely return to the game.

3. Chronic Concussions

Chronic concussions are concussions that result in long-lasting or recurring symptoms that persist beyond the expected recovery period. They can occur due to repeated head trauma over time, such as multiple concussions or cumulative subconcussive hits. Chronic concussions can lead to persistent cognitive impairments, mood disturbances, or other neurological symptoms. These concussions require careful monitoring, specialized medical attention, and extended periods of recovery before players can consider returning to play.

4. Recurrent Concussions

Recurrent concussions refer to the occurrence of multiple concussions in an individual player over time. In the NHL, players are at an increased risk of sustaining recurrent concussions due to the physicality of the sport and the potential for repeated head impacts. When players experience recurrent concussions, the cumulative effects can be more severe and pose a significant risk to their long-term cognitive health. Proper management, including adequate rest, medical evaluation, and cautious return-to-play protocols, is crucial in minimizing the risks associated with recurrent concussions.


Concussions are a prevalent concern in the NHL due to the physical nature of the sport and the potential for head impacts. The severity and presentation of concussions can vary, ranging from acute concussions resulting from sudden impacts to subacute or chronic concussions with prolonged or recurring symptoms. Recurrent concussions pose a particular risk to players, necessitating thorough evaluation and careful management to protect long-term cognitive health. Ongoing efforts to enhance player safety, improve concussion protocols, and promote research into concussion prevention and management are critical in reducing the incidence and severity of concussions in the NHL.