Making Ice Hockey Safer
Two spine injuries in recent Minnesota high school hockey games have sparked debate among parents, officials, and fans about ways to make the rough sport made safer. The league acted quickly by announcing tougher penalties for infractions that increase the risk of spine injuries: boarding, checking from behind and contact to the head.
Preventing these types of injuries will also take effort from everyone involved in youth hockey, from administrators and officials to coaches, parents and players themselves. This means a combination of stricter rules, better conditioning and playing techniques, and possibly an overhaul of the hockey culture.
Ideas for contemplation:
- Take “Jack’s Pledge,” which was established by the family of a severely injured player (see video below).
- Players who play violently even when they haven’t received a penalty should be forced to sit out for a period of time or for the remainder of the game.
- Increase neck strength to reduce spinal injuries. Too many players have underdeveloped necks relative to their biceps and thighs.
- Educate on better techniques for administering and receiving checks. Programs at USA Hockey have been assisted by the Mayo Clinic to help combat both spine and head injuries.
- Educate on the proper way to hit the boards. Most players hold their heads down and lean into the fall. A “heads up, don’t duck” strategy helps with the mechanism of the injury so the player can avoid it.