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Another serious injury raises more questions about medical protocol in Kontinental League

Less than a year after the death of Alexei Cherepanov, the Kontinental League finds itself again at the center of a medical controversy, this one involving the younger brother of St. Louis Blues star Paul Kariya.

Martin Kariya, who plays for Dinamo Riga in the KHL, suffered a concussion Saturday night in a game in Moscow when he was hit from behind into the boards, then hit his head on the ice when he fell. But as was the case with Cherepanov, the KHL and medical personnel have come under criticism for how the situation was dealt from a medical standpoint.

According to reports, the medical staff for Dinamo responded immediately and was on the ice, but emergency personnel at the Moscow Spartak rink were apparently sitting in the stands and had to be called using the public address system. They took several minutes to arrive at the scene.

It has also been reported that instead of being taken off the ice on a stretcher, Kariya was carted off by trainers and teammates on a soft tarp and that he was taken off the rink through a narrow entrance at the Dinamo bench.

Pictures of the hit and the aftermath can be seen HERE and HERE.

“I didn’t see the incident,” Kariya’s Dinamo teammate and former NHLer Marcel Hossa told a Latvian website. “When I turned, Kariya was already on the ice and was not moving. I don’t understand why the medical staff took so long to get to the ice. At times like this, they should be on the ice immediately after an incident. You never can tell how a fall like this will end. I hope this is a lesson for them and in the future they will learn.”

After being taken off the ice, Kariya was taken to a hospital in Moscow for observation, where it was determined he had suffered a concussion. He remained in the hospital overnight and returned to Riga by train and was accompanied by a doctor, according to a report. Kariya is expected to be out of the Dinamo lineup for at least four weeks.

“The most important thing is everything is fine,” Spartak coach Milosh Rziga was quoted as saying. “Both our doctors and their doctors were on the ice as well as emergency medical personnel who weren’t summoned at first. What, are they supposed to jump across the boards? They could only get on the ice where the Zamboni comes on. I think that in this situation, everything was fine.”

The KHL confirmed it has already conducted an investigation into the incident, but did not say whether anyone would be disciplined or whether it was investigating the Spartak doctors for negligence, as was reported. On Monday, the league sent a statement to its North American public relations firm, which was translated from Russian, that read:

“Kontinental Hockey League officials conducted an investigation into the actions of the on-site medical assistance team and their response to the injury of Dinamo Riga forward Martin Kariya during the game Friday, Sept. 19 (sic). Based upon the results of the investigation by the league, the KHL has decided to have all clubs hold special exercises on working out methods of removal of injured athletes from the playing surface. The KHL has set a strict communication on the procedure and methodology of the exercises and the order of the medical teams in the evacuation of hockey players to all clubs.”

The Kariya incident comes 11 months after the KHL’s medical protocol came into question following the death of 19-year-old New York Rangers prospect Cherepanov, who was playing for Avangard Omsk when he collapsed and died during a KHL game in Chekhov.

It was later disclosed that Cherepanov had suffered a heart condition that had gone undetected by the Avangard medical staff, but it was also learned that the ambulance that was supposed to be at the rink had already left and had to be called back and did not arrive until 12 minutes after Cherepanov had collapsed. The battery in the defibrillator at the rink had drained and it took 20 minutes to get Cherepanov to a local hospital.

Although no criminal charges were laid, the president, GM and a doctor for Avangard were suspended indefinitely and another team doctor was suspended for two years.

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