Monday, December 08, 2008

Can youth hockey be safer?

The Toledo Blade reported last week on devastating injuries to two youth hockey players - ages 14 and 18 - that occurred in high school games on the same day. Both players were checked by opposing players. Both fell to the ice. Both suffered serious paralysis.

The older player, Dustin Wells, initially had no feeling in his right leg. The injuries of the younger player, Kyle Cannon, were even more serious. He's hospitalized with a broken neck. A few days after the incident, he'd regained some feeling in his abdomen and arms, The Blade reported on December 6.

The injured players weren't the only lives affected. The player who skated into Kyle Cannon, causing him to fall hard on the ice, is being investigated by police after Kyle's father filed a complaint with the local police department. And Kyle's teammates met with counselors to help them deal with their grief - and to help get them back on the ice for a game four days later.

Whether these injuries were accidents or could have been avoided is for Toledo school officials to look into. However, this is a time when youth hockey officials nationally should be evaluating how to make the sport safer. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following data:

-Two hundred thousand children play youth hockey in the U.S.

-Among youth players, 9 to 15 years old, head and neck injuries accounted for 23 per cent of all hockey injuries, according to a study.

-Body checking made up 86 per cent of injuries that occur during games.

AAP's recommendations:

-Body checking should not be allowed in youth hockey for children age 15 years or younger.

-Youth hockey programs need to educate players, coaches, and parents about the importance of knowing and following the rules as well as the dangers of body checking another player from behind.

1 comment:

Philadelphia High School Hockey said...

Every coach has to be certified by USA hockey. Part of, indeed a large portion of their training, covers safety. The mechanics of safe contact are covered extensively. Every youth hockey program should be associated with an ACE, essentially a master coach, who oversees safety procedures in their programs. The head coach of each individual team, along with their ace, are required to teach proper sports safety, especially proper checking technique. It is certain that if players follow the rules, of which they well know, injuries are freak incidents and not the norm. In this case BOTH sets of injuries you mention were cause by checking from behind. Essentially these players were approached from behind and hit unawares in the back. Checking from behind is the first thing as a player you are expressly told not to do. This was either a set of freak accidents or the players who delivered the hits were attempting to injure their opponents. Either way, it is the player not the sport. You are more likely to get in a car accident then to get injured playing hockey.