The cost of concussions and other on-ice game-related injuries over the course of three National Hockey League regular seasons amounts to about US$653 million, a new study estimates.

The study, published in the British medical journal "Injury Prevention," highlights the cost of concussions and other serious types of injuries borne by NHL teams.

"Our study is just the bare bones number," Dr. Michael Cusimano, one of the study's researchers, told CTV's Canada AM on Monday. "We didn't include things like medical costs for those injuries. So the numbers are actually, we think, higher than what we said."

In recent years, the issue of concussions on the ice has made national headlines.

Ten former NHL players, including all-star defenceman Gary Leeman, claimed in a class-action lawsuit last year that the league hasn't done enough to protect its players from concussions. More than 200 former players later joined the lawsuit, which Canadian hockey personality Don Cherry has described as a "money grab."

"I feel sorry for the guys; you know some of the guys maybe got whacked a little, but it's a money grab as far as I'm concerned," Cherry said.

But according to researchers like Cusimano, who is also a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital, game-related injuries should be taken seriously by the NHL.

The argument that violence on the ice brings in revenues is a “short term outlook,” said Cusimano, pointing to the fact that approximately 30 per cent of parents today say they are now thinking twice before allowing their children to play hockey.

“Ten to 20 years down the road, that's going to translate in market share for the NHL,” he said.

And it’s not just the NHL owners who are bearing the brunt of game-related injuries. Cusimano said fans are also paying for concussions and bodychecks.

"The next time you buy a pizza and a drink or a hot dog and a drink, think about why you're paying $20 for something like that. Those costs are just being transferred to the fans."

Over a 30-week period, Cusimano and his team looked at the types of injuries sustained by professional hockey players and how much they cost NHL owners. According to the study, concussions alone account for $42.8 million annually in time lost by players not on the ice.

Other types of injuries:

  • Leg and foot injuries were the most common, accounting for US$68.2 million in time lost. The average number of games missed due to these types of injuries was 9.9.
  • Head and neck injuries, such as concussions, resulted in the most number of games missed, at 11 games over a 30-week period. These types of injuries were also the most expensive, averaging at US$353,300 per injury.
  • Shoulder injuries were the second most-expensive type of injury, costing NHL owners US$306,600 per injury.

During the 2010-11 hockey season, the NHL introduced a rule change which outlawed bodychecks aimed at the head, as well as checking from a player's blind side.

However the rule change did little to cut down the number of concussions in the NHL, according to an earlier study that was also headed by Cusimano.

"If player safety is the prime priority of the NHL in bringing this kind of rule in … then they need to relook at this in a very serious way and adjust things," Cusimano said.

About 63 per cent of the 1,307 NHLers that played during the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 regular seasons, missed at least one game as a result of a hockey-related injury, according to this latest study.

With files from The Canadian Press