Analysis of National Hockey League Player Performance After Concussion and Financial Costs Associated with Implementation of an Updated Concussion Protocol: A Retrospective Comparative Study

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Conference Proceeding

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Objectives: Background: An updated National Hockey League (NHL) concussion protocol (NHLCP) was established in the 2016-2017 season to mitigate the negative outcomes of sportrelated concussions. However, few studies on the effects of implementing the NHLCP have been performed. Purpose: To define concussion incidence and investigate differences in NHL player performance after a concussion during periods before and after implementation of the NHLCP and to assess the financial impact on NHL teams associated with NHLCP implementation. We hypothesized that concussion incidence would increase and player performance would remain the same after NHLCP implementation. Methods: A retrospective review of NHL players who sustained a concussion before (2000-2001 to 2015-2016 seasons) and after (2016-2017 to 2020-2021 seasons) implementation of the NHLCP (pre- NHLCP and post-NHLCP groups). For each group, multiple performance metrics 30 days, 1 season, and 3 seasons before and after concussion were compared for both groups. Return to play, total concussion cost, and association of return to play with cost were investigated with regression analysis. Results: For both groups, no significant differences in standard performance were observed during the 30-day and 1-season time periods before and after concussion. Mean return to play was significantly higher in the pre-NHLCP than in the post-NHLCP group (20.1 vs 15.7 days; P=0.022). Mean adjusted player salary was not different between groups, but mean adjusted replacement player salary was significantly higher in the post-NHLCP group ($744,505 vs $896,942; P= 0.032). Mean cost of time missed did not differ between groups. Mean return to play time significantly decreased over the entire study period 2000-2021 (R2=0.335, P=0.005), and mean return to play time was positively associated with cost (R2=0.215, P=0.030). Conclusions: Concussion incidence did not change after implementation of the updated NHLCP, but players had significantly less missed time from injury after protocol implementation. Changes in player performance 30 days and 1 year before and after concussion injury were not different before and after NHLCP implementation. (Table Presented).

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