The NHL Needs to Reclassify Players Injuries

Rangers' Adam Fox placed on IR with upper-body injury
(Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

Hockey is one of my favorite sports to watch and It is one of the hardest sports to play. I have a ton of respect for hockey players especially with the amount of injuries players suffer through. However there is something that throughout my time watching Hockey that I have noticed and it involves injury classifications. When teams classify injuries it is alway either an upper body or lower body injury. The NHL is the only league that I can think of that utilizes this system of classifying injuries. I maybe in the minority here but I have a problem with the way NHL has been classifying injuries.

My problem with this classification system is that it’s extremely vague. Think about it there are many parts of the body that can get injured. Like for an upper body injury it could be a concussion, jaw, nose, arm, hand, finger, wrist, other muscles in the arm/upper back, and etc. For a lower body injury it could be a toe, foot, leg, lower back, other muscles in the legs/lower back and etc. Not only is it vague on the specific part of the body that is hurt, but it is also vague on the specific injury. Especially it is almost never clear if the injury was a torn ligament, sprain, bruise, cut, gash, broken bones. Just saying Upper or Lower body injury doesn’t make it simple especially when it comes to treating these injuries.

I have heard from some analysts and people that the reason that they use this for injuries are due to the fact that teams are afraid that their competitors would the target the player’s injured area when he returns to play or plays through the injury. Here is the problem with that though you are still putting the injured player on the ice with further risk of making that injury severe sprain or not. If the injury is so severe and you don’t want him to get targeted then don’t have him on the ice. I know sometimes there is times that teams want an athlete on the ice for a potential push for a playoff berth or to advance in the playoffs but the opposing players will still know where the injury is located after all it is labeled as a Higher or Lower Body injury.

So while I listed the main problem that I thought to myself why would the NHL continue to utilized this system of classifying injuries? I have two theories why.

1. To keep trade value up for certain player.
No matter what a team is going to want to get value for a player no matter what the case is. So sometimes Teams could use the upper body and lower body terminology to describe injuries in order to try and hide how severe the injury is to maintain their trade value. So when the time comes of regression the team can properly move away and trade him for value while hiding the players issues.

2. Leverage in Contract Negotiations

Of course teams may want to disclose the severity and the location of the injury so teams could get leverage in negotiating for a new contract with a player. Plus teams also get leverage in potentially not get screwed in a contract extension when it comes time for certain players. Teams have the leverage in deciding whether or not to acquire that athlete again based on information that they know themselves.

I wont be surprised whatsoever when the NHL CBA is up in 2025/2026 that a better injury classification system will be mentioned and negotiated for. Especially as the one the NHL currently is using labeling as either an upper or lower body injury which to me is a big problem that needs to be changed in order to protect the players.

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