By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Hits on Sidney Crosby have indefinitely sidelined the game’s premiere player, putting new pressure on the league to find ways to protect its players from concussions.

“To manage, reduce and whenever possible find ways to prevent instances in which concussions occur,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Just last year, an infamous hit by Penguin Matt Cooke on Boston’s Marc Savard caused the Bruin to miss the remainder of the season and prompted the league to implement Rule 48 which states: “A lateral or blind side hit to any opponent where the head is targeted is not permitted.”

The league is looking to strengthen that rule and UPMC’s Dr. Mark Lovell says that’s a good idea.

“When an individual is hit and they’re not expecting the hit, a lot of times they’re not bracing for it,” he said. “Their head spins and you get the brain spinning within in the skull and that’s when we see some of the more severe concussions.”

Lovell and his team developed something call baseline testing for the NHL. Prior to each season, each player is shown words in quick succession and then tested on his ability to remember them.

Then if he suffers an injury, he’s tested again and the doctors directly compare the two scores. A player like Crosby is not permitted to play again until he can match or better his baseline score.

Bettman and the league will also be looking at new and better helmets to protect the players’ heads, but Lovell says the protection will always be limited.

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