Considered one of the most violent sports next to football and rugby, hockey injuries come as no surprise, but the amount of money players get paid to ride the bench with those injuries may surprise you. A study out of St. Michael’s Hospital found the owners in the National Hockey League (NHL) pay out $218 million each year to players who miss games due to injury. That means from the start of the 2009 NHL regular season to the end of the 2012 season, injured players received $653 million for games they did not compete in.
"Employers are morally responsible for protecting their employees," said Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital. "The NHL owners need to do a better job of protecting their athletes — if not for their players, then for their own pocketbooks."
Dr. Cusimano and his colleagues pointed out that they had included those past two NHL seasons in their study, which meant the 2010 season when Rule 48 — a ban on blind side hits to the head — was enacted by league officials. The research team hopes that the league as a whole will make more practical steps toward eliminating the severity of injuries and how many injuries occur.
Throughout the 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 regular seasons, researchers combed through data for types of injuries and where they occurred to determine which injuries cost the most. Across the three seasons, over 1,307 NHL players, around 63 percent of the league, missed at least one game due to an injury they sustained during regular season play.
"Most arguments against changing the game cite the connection between violence and revenue," said Dr. Cusimano. "But this research shows that preventable injuries, such as concussions that are clearly related to violent acts in 88 per cent of cases, have an important economic burden in addition to the high personal health costs that players bear."
Head and neck injuries, including concussions, were considered the most expensive injury paying out $353,300 per injury and accounted for the most games missed with 11. These types of injuries were also the second-most common behind leg and foot, which accounted for approximately $68 million of the total cost for injuries (38 percent).
Shoulder injuries came in as the third most costly fetching players $306,600 per injury followed closely by arm and hand, which brought in $290,000 per injury. Injuries around the chest and abdomen area took $219,400 per injury and groin injuries $203,900; however, these injuries were the third-most common among all injuries.