The Dangers Associated with Youth Ice Hockey - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers
  • Monday, 13 March 2017

The Dangers Associated with Youth Ice Hockey

#AskRobertGabor

It’s no secret that Canadians young and old love hockey. In fact, there are over 4.5 million Canadians that participate in the sport in one way or another, and it is easily the most popular sport of its season for children. Its popularity isn’t static either—it’s steadily rising as more girls and young women gain an interest in the sport. 

While it’s encouraging to see more Canadian youth getting out of doors and participating in a physically demanding sport, which undoubtedly has health benefits of its own, there are also risks involved. Participation in any type of exercise can lead to exercise related injuries, but injury is more common in some sports than in others, naturally.

Because hockey is a collision sport, injuries are more likely than they might be otherwise, and some of those injuries are more severe than one might encounter in other sports. It is classified as a collision sport by professional organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) because both purposeful and accidental contact occurs. This contact comes in two forms, as defined in the sport: body contact and body checking.

Body contact is a more passive maneuver, in which a defensive player essentially just gets in front of the puck carrier to change their direction. They don’t initiate contact themselves. Bodychecking is a more active maneuver, which is comparatively more forceful. It involves the defensive player actively skating—the contact isn’t just up to the player with the puck.

This is an important distinction because studies have shown that bodychecking, in particular, is not just a common maneuver that results in injury—it’s the most likely mechanism. It contributes significantly to injuries like spinal cord injury, concussions, and other serious trauma. It has the most impact on the likelihood of concussion.

The dangers inherent in bodychecking have brought it to the attention of legislators. The introduction of bodychecking is mandated by play level, which in turn is determined by age. As of 2009, Hockey Canada determined the 11 year old to 12 year old play level (peewee league) to be the minimum age for bodychecking introduction. Quebec introduces the maneuver at age 13.

Concussions have often been discussed as “part of the game,” and dismissed as such. But as research advances, we’re learning more and more about just what kind of long term effects concussions—especially the repeated concussions possible in the sport. Even more frightening, concussions have an even more traumatic effect on adolescents, whose brains are still developing. They take longer to heal, and each successive concussion has more traumatic effects than the last.

If your child is playing any sport in which bodily contact is possible, understand that concussions don’t always occur in tandem with loss of consciousness or fractures to the skull. Head injuries aren’t something that should be played through, nor are you overreacting if you have a child checked out even if there aren’t clear signs of a concussion. Children aren’t always honest about symptoms because they don’t want to leave the game or be chastised by their coach.

Always—err on the side of caution when a head injury could have occurred. X-rays and other diagnostic tools available to doctors are the only way to be certain a concussion has or hasn’t occurred. 

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