Risk of Youth Ice Hockey

When you participate in a sport, you realize there is a risk of injury. From sprains, strains, and fractures to broken bones and brain injuries, most sports include some risk of injury for players. This risk is concerning when you consider how many young children participate in sports. While many children play sports without injury, some children are not as fortunate. One particularly disturbing trend is the high rate of brain injuries for hockey players compared to brain injuries in other sports.

How Common Are Brain Injuries for Hockey Players?

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) looked at the number of sports-related brain injuries in 2014 – 2015 in Alberta and Ontario. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of brain injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2014 and 2015 were sport-related. Over the past five years, the number of sports-related brain injuries treated in emergency rooms increased by forty-six percent (46%). The largest increases were seen in children from birth to nine years (78% increase) and children between the ages of 10 and 17 (45%).

Hockey players sustain brain injuries at a much higher rate compared to individuals in other sports. The number of brain injuries from playing hockey is almost double the number of brain injuries from football, rugby, cycling, skiing, and snowboarding.

Causes of Brain Injuries in Youth Hockey

Bodychecking has been identified as one of the primary causes of brain injuries in hockey. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommended banning bodychecking in non-elite youth ice hockey in 2012. In response, some organizations have disallowed bodychecking for youth players. Because of the substantial risk of brain injuries in youth hockey, parents should talk to coaches and officials to determine the policy for bodychecking in their child’s youth hockey organization.

However, bodychecking is not the only cause of brain injuries in youth hockey. Falling or crashing against the wall can also cause the brain to violently move within the skull causing a concussion or other brain injury.

Parents need to be aware of the symptoms of concussions and brain injuries and monitor their child for any signs of a brain trauma very carefully. A child exhibiting any signs or symptoms needs to be seen by a physician as soon as possible to be evaluated for a potential brain injury. If left untreated, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be life-threatening or result in permanent brain damage. Studies have also shown that repeated concussions can have long-term negative consequences for athletes.

Precautions in Youth Hockey to Prevent Brain Injuries

As discussed above, banning bodychecking in youth hockey decreases the risk of brain injuries, but injuries can still occur. Parents can help reduce the risk of injury by following several safety tips for youth hockey:

  • Before playing any sport, you should have your child’s physician conduct a physical evaluation to ensure your child is physically fit to participate.
  • Always wear all protective gear, including helmets, mouth guards, pads, gloves, and padded hockey pants.
  • Check equipment before each practice or game to ensure all equipment is in good condition. Replace any worn or damaged safety equipment immediately.
  • Make sure safety equipment fits properly.
  • Equipment should meet or exceed all industry and government standards.
  • Be an active participant by attending practices and games.
  • Teach children to speak up if they experience any pain. Also, teach children the signs of a concussion so they know to report any symptoms immediately.

In addition to the above, make sure that coaches and referees enforce all rules and encourage safe play. Discuss teaching players to avoid head contact with other players and boards with the coaches.

Ontario Brain Injury Lawyers

If your child has suffered a brain injury while playing hockey, call our Ontario brain injury lawyers for a free case review. When a child is injured under circumstances that exceed the normal assumption of risk, one or more parties could be held liable for damages.

Call Diamond and Diamond at 1-800-567-HURT to schedule a free consultation.

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