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    National Hockey League Ignores Physics But Loves Ancient Roman Arenas
    By Enrico Uva | March 10th 2011 11:55 AM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Enrico

    I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

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    Due to better conditioning and to the influence of European players, the average game speed of an NHL(National Hockey League) skater has increased in the past decade. Since kinetic energy is proportional to the square of velocity, the likelihood of severe brain injuries from collisions at higher skating speeds does not increase in a linear fashion. If someone is driven head first into the boards with 10% more speed, then he will be smashing into the boards with (1+0.10)2 = 1.21 times or 21% more energy.

    Expectedly, a variety of athletes have experienced severe concussions in recent years, but the league has been indifferent to their predictable misfortunes. Part of the solution would be to sacrifice seats for the safety of the players and thereby increase the skating surface, reducing the probability of a collision. In plain English, comply with international standards and make the rink bigger.

    And instead of accepting goon actions and sweeping the lives of their players under the rug, the NHL would also have to severely suspend players who deliberately injure others---I mean isn't this what all other professional leagues and non-barbaric cultures do?

    But the league loves to cater to the loud minority who will cheer every hit and fight until they are silenced not by blood but only by a player who is totally immobilized on the ice . Then they wonder why Americans will not warm up to the game, why so many franchises cannot fill their arenas.

    Finally a company(Air Canada)threatened to withdraw their sponsorship. Hopefully money will talk some sense into a league that knows no physics and lacks basic morals.

    Comments

    Hank
    Due to better conditioning and to the influence of European players, the average game speed of an NHL(National Hockey League) skater has increased in the past decade. 
    I think it's the opposite - the neutral zone trap has slowed down actual hockey so the speed of individual skaters is less important.  It's like a Center in gridiron football being able to run a 4.4 second 40-yard dash.   It doesn't matter in the game.

    I think concussions are better diagnosed - there is no way that there are more concussions today than when hockey players were allowed to go without helmets and fighting was the only reason people went.  Back then no one wanted to know because contracts were not guaranteed and you were just out of a job and with brain damage.

    The solution to injuries is to instead allow fast skaters to skate - make the rink bigger.  These behemoths who do the damage are able to do it because the trap is easy on a rink the same size as it was 50 years ago.    When I lived in Pittsburgh and Jaromir Jagr played there, I got a picture with him.  I am 6'2 and 190 lbs. and he was a giant standing next to me, and he was always regarded as a big sissy in hockey.   The actual bruisers can get away with it because they are fast and quality skaters can't go anywhere.

    edit:  I looked up Zdeno Chara just now because of his hit on Pacioretty - 6'9" and 255 lbs.!   This is a different situation than your article, of course, but Chara is a monster.   A bigger rink would not have helped Pacioretty at all here, since it would still have turnbuckles and The Hulk slamming him into one.    But overall, the non-flagrant-asshole injuries could be avoided if it weren't so easy to make sure finesse players can't escape.
    UvaE
    The solution to injuries is to instead allow fast skaters to skate - make the rink bigger. I agree; I did point out: Part of the solution would be to sacrifice seats for the safety of the players and thereby increase the skating surface, reducing the probability of a collision
    UvaE
    Since the time of writing, there have been more serious head injuries in the NHL playoffs, and the usual off-the-wall commentator Don Cherry actually raised a valid point last week about new shoulder pads. They are made of such a hard plastic that they are partly responsible for some of the head injuries, especially in the recent case of Nathan Horton's concussion.
    Hank
    You can't go back to the 1970s NHL and assume no headgear would reduce injuries - these guys are a lot bigger and faster.    I can't see anything except a larger rink being the solution.   It would eliminate the neutral zone trap along with bruisers in such close quarters jacking people up.
    UvaE
    Al Kovacs - professional multibody dynamicist sent me this message via your contact form at Science 2.0: Thanks Mr. Uva for reminding the sports world about high speed impact. I'm a professional computational multibody dynamics model and simulation expert. Much of the world ignores the effects of classical physics. Professional sports is one profession dominated by physics but deterred by macho attitude and low sense. Hockey and football are the big violators of human safety. With all the computer modeling and simulation ability today these areas continue to ignore the facts and warnings. Even after someone is killed the game goes on. Its a gladiator mentality, hence beyond the control of reason. Frankly, the game rules should be changed as compared to finding better energy absorption devices. But energy dissipation needs distance to work effectively and that's not possible in a small helmet. There are no known Newtonian materials that can dissipate large energies in short distances without reacting large impulse forces/moments. You can't get something for nothing here. But we are talking about people driven by the game's mechanics, not the mechanics of the game. There is a difference, especially when professional team owners pay for the blood and gore. Making money is more important than making human safety. These appear to be the reluctant rules of the game. Al Kovacs, Ph.D.
    MikeCrow
    I am looking forward to big padded helmets making the players look like the little guy in the Android commercials.
    Never is a long time.
    UvaE
    Pad the players' attitude and pad the safety margins through bigger rinks. Joking about padded helmets is motivated by the kind of machismo that will not only lead to more serious injuries among professionals but among children playing the game. Retired player Gilles Tremblay pointed out that when he played in the NHL, the wingers tended to stay in their "corridor". Now everyone criss-crosses everywhere, increasing the likelihood for contact. Of course, that open style should not be discouraged, but for it to be safer, it needs the skating room of a larger rink.