When I saw the slow-motion replay of Evgeni Malkin’s head slamming into the end boards, my first thought was, “That’s exactly the type of case where my concussion-reducing idea would have helped.” The innovation involves simply changing the type of padding used in hockey helmets. The type used presently (expanded polypropylene, or “EPP”) is going to absorb a certain amount of impact, but if you’ve ever felt the EPP liner of a hockey helmet, you know that it would be totally ineffective when it comes to the amount of impact experienced by the back of Malkin’s head when it slammed against the boards.
What would have been much more effective in absorbing that impact is a helmet fitted with the type of shock absorption used in bicycle helmets (expanded polystyrene, or “EPS”). This is a very dense styrofoam-type material designed to crush upon impact, providing far superior shock absorption than the standard EPP. Of course, once an EPS protective liner has been crushed by an impact, it would need to be replaced. But this added cost is just a drop in the bucket in a $3.3 billion industry like the NHL.
This helmet innovation would not reduce the severity of some concussions, like the one suffered by Vladimir Tarasenko from a shoulder-to-jaw hit. But I think mandating this change in helmet design for all NHL players would represent a significant step forward in stemming the tide of the concussion scourge plaguing the NHL.