November 22, 2011
If you're an NFL fan, or a fantasy football freak, you've no doubt noticed the evolution of injury reports.
Hazy terminology like "questionable" has yielded to specific injuries and ailments, to the point where a player's status is updated moments after practice and right up until kickoff.
Obviously, sports wagering drives these disclosures for football. The NHL, in contrast, has neither the level of wagering nor the candid access to injury information. Which is to say that the NFL injury reports can read like a medical journal while the NHL using terms like "mid-body," which could really mean anything from the hand to the hips to the spleen.
In 2008, the NHL enacted a policy that "lessened" the disclosure requirements for its teams, in the name of player safety. Said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland at the time: "We're trying to protect our players. There's competitive issues."
Damien Cristodero of the St. Pete Times recently revisited the injury disclosure issue, claiming that fans and the media want better information about ailments. He found an unlikely proponent for more candor in NHL injury reports: Ken Hitchcock, veteran coach of the St. Louis Blues. From the Times:
It is difficult to believe video scouting would not reveal who is hurt and where regardless of a team's secrecy. Besides, Hitchcock said, players can police that situation themselves: "If they're coming after one of your injured players, you have the obligation to do the same to them."
As for not revealing injuries, Hitchcock said, "It's stupid.
"All it does is make (reporters) … mistrust us. What's the big deal? A guy has a sore shoulder, he has a sore shoulder. We're playing games with this stuff. If a guy gets hurt and he has an injury, we'll tell you where it is and what it is. They do it every day in football. It's no big deal."
"I think that's a detriment to the team and player. There's very few things that aren't exposed now. I don't know why we have to expose everything."
As a journalist, it's a no-brainer: We want the best information at all times, because it makes for accurate analysis and reporting. If we're killing a guy for not performing and his "lower body injury" is something systemic and not temporary, it informs the criticism, if not excuses the performance.
As paying customers, it's a tougher call. Injury disclosure might affect everything from gambling to walk-up ticket sales for the night; yet it's difficult to hear coaches and players claiming such information puts them at risk for further injury and not at least comprehend the vague nature of the NHL's injury reports.
Then again, it's the information age; don't we usually find out of this stuff eventually anyway?