Brain Injuries: Minor Hockey Players 10x More Likely to Suffer Brain Injuries

by John McKiggan

Body Checking Increases Risk of Bain Injury

Perhaps this new research should have been published in the Journal of Common Sense (if there was such a thing they probably wouldn’t have enough subscribers).

A new study of minor hockey players has found that the incidents of brain injury in 9 and 10 year olds has increased ten times since Hockey Canada decided to allow body checking at a younger age in minor hockey.

I have posted many times about the problems with brain injury due to concussion in minor sports such as hockey, football and basketball. See for example:

Hockey Nova Scotia Recommends New Concussion Policy to Prevent Brain Injury

25% of Junior Hockey Players Suffer Brain Injuries: Ontario Medical Study

Another Study Linking Football and Brain Injury

Ignoring the Problem?

However, it seems that players, fans and officials were turning a blind eye to the problem until recently.

No doubt the high profile given to the injuries suffered by Sydney Crosby has played a part in recent public interest.

Professional Sports Starting to Pay Attention

For example, the NHL has announced details of a new concussion protocol that will require players showing symptoms of concussion to be tested by a doctor before returning the play. Until now, sports trainers would conduct player examinations on the bench during a game.

Last week the National Football League announced that this coming season every team will be required to use the same standard test: “the NFL sidelines concussion exam” to evaluate whether a player has sustained a concussion (or more serious brain injury). [Thanks to my colleague Bruce Stern at the Brain Injury Law Blog.]

What About Our Children?

While the “powers that be” in professional sports appear to be taking steps to protect the athletes that work so hard to entertain us, I have to ask: “Who is looking out for our children?”

Decade Long Study

Dr. Michael Cusimano of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto reviewed the records of more than 8,500 boys aged 6 to17 who attended Ontario area emergency departments for hockey related injuries during a 10 year period.

Dr. Cusimano is the volunteer Vice President of Think First Foundation of Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of brain and spinal cord injury.

More than half of the reported injuries (4,460) were the result of body checking!

But the scariest finding was that the risk of a head or neck injury, including concussions increased significantly across all minor hockey divisions.

It is simply common sense that we shouldn’t do anything to unnecessarily increase the risk of injury to our children.

The rule change that allowed body checking for 9 and 10 year olds in the Atom hockey division is simply wrong. It does not increase children’s skill levels. It does not teach them how to “take a hit”. It simply increases the risk of injury and exposes children to serious, potentially life threatening, brain injuries.

Want to do something about it?
Email Sean Kelly who is in charge of Regulations and Legal Affairs for Hockey Canada. Tell him you oppose body checking for 9 and 10 year olds.

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