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NHL's revised concussion protocol takes effect immediately after meetings

BOCA RATON, Fla. - The NHL's revised protocol for concussions took effect just over 48 hours after being announced by commissioner Gary Bettman.

A new standard of testing was instituted starting with Wednesday's games, according to Nashville Predators general manager David Poile. After the league's GM meetings wrapped up, he elaborated on details of the protocol change announced earlier in the week for players displaying concussion-like symptoms.

"They've got to go into the dressing room to be with your doctor and your trainer and they go over all the criteria," said Poile. "There's a test they're going to have to perform and give them a little bit of time to make sure they get to their senses and they're ready and willing to come back."

Until now, trainers had been able to conduct a quick test with players on the bench. Another wrinkle in the new standard is a requirement for the process to be conducted without any urgency.

"You take a 15-minute timeout—that's a huge change," said Poile. "That's a very caring change to make sure that we're right."

The change to the concussion protocol was a key part of the five-point plan announced by Bettman at the outset of the GM meetings Monday.

There are still some details to be worked out. Director of hockey operations Colin Campbell suggested outstanding issues have made the concussion protocol a "hot topic."

"Yeah, they're still working on the protocol, but it does take effect and the loose ends are being tied up," he said. "It's a pretty tough protocol to deal with. What is deemed a concussion?

"I don't want to go there yet. We're still trying to nail it down."

Teams are trying to grapple with how the changes might affect the way they operate. Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero indicated he was considering having a physician travel on the road because it might be a bit awkward having a doctor from a rival team make a determination about one of his players.

Even though the new protocol isn't expected to be fool-proof—some concussions take longer than 15 minutes to emerge—it's being hailed as a step in the right direction.

"Once again, it's best efforts to care for the player to try and put him in an environment that's safe," said Poile. "We're not going to be 100 per cent when we're doing these things but I would say it's a big step to ensure that they're healthy.

"Usually after 15 minutes a player's going to know whether (he) feels good or doesn't feel good. That's a real good step."

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