Friday, November 27, 2009

' Tis the Season

Hockey season is underway and unfortunately concussion season has also begun. Just a few weeks into regular play and I’ve already heard of three youth hockey players who’ve suffered possible concussions during some aggressive games. Troubling to hear because we've got a lot of hockey ahead of us. Unlike knee, shoulder or wrist injuries, concussions can have long term and devastating effects, some of which are not realized until much later in life.

Teaching Heads Up Hockey
Coaches are concerned too. While chatting with an Onondaga Thunder Squirt coach the other day, he made a point of telling me how wished parents would spend as much money on helmets as they do on skates and sticks. “Think about,” he said. “What’s the most important part of your young hockey player’s body? The head! Spending 50 dollars on a helmet and 250 dollars on skates, just doesn’t add up.” This coach shared several stories of kids on his team taking some nasty inadvertant hits. Fortunately, his young players didn't suffer any serious head injuries, but like so many other coaches, he fears it every game.

Equipment is key, but that shouldn't be the only area of investment. You certainly don't want to foster a false feeling that protective equipment is going to prevent all injuries. It's not and many experts believe education needs to start early. If our kids are not taught proper checking techniques, especially along the boards, chances are we’ll continue to see even more concussions. Several coaches I’ve chatted with are all for teaching the kids “heads up” hockey well before the body-checking Pee Wee level. They’ll have a better understanding of body contact, puck separation and how to play the game safely when it's time for body contact.
Monkey See
Kids often emulate what they see. If they’re at a hockey game or watching one on TV they may witness some head hunting and may think that’s the way to play the game. We need to make sure they know it’s not the way to play and how hits to the head have to be off limits.

Injuries On The Rise
Big hits and hockey go together like hand in glove. But as these NHL players get bigger and faster, the number of concussions has risen too. Recent research shows more than 750 NHL players have been diagnosed with a concussion in the past twelve years. The National Academy of Neurosychology's Sport Concussion Symposium in New York did a ten season study and found;

31 concussions per 1,000 hockey games. 760 games were missed by those injured players during the '06-'07 season, a 41 percent increase from the previous season. 41 percent!

Harvard Helmets
The issue of concussions is finally getting some much-needed attention. On the college level, the Harvard men's hockey team this year is working with The Messier Project, to promote safe play during the season. Spearheaded by Hall of Famer Mark Messier, the team was issued new helmets that are designed to provide extra protection from concussions. Harvard becomes the first Division I team to join the campaign to address hockey concussions. Good to see. While we still don't know a lot about concussions, we do know they are real and the damage can be devastating.

For more information on this topic go here.

No comments:

Post a Comment