The Safety Division in the Hockey Community
Take a look into the sport of hockey with players whizzing around you wanting nothing more than to take your head off to make his team cheer, while at the same time sticks and pucks come inches from your face as you try to survive in this arena of battle. Looking to determine a sport as a “contact sport” or not, focus towards the amount of body contact or collisions that the sport contains. Hockey is one of the sports with the most contact, if not the sport with the most. Contact sports also can vary with football and lacrosse being up with hockey in the amount of contact, but people who soccer and basketball argue they belong in the same category. The safety of the sport of hockey is always in question and one can conclude such facts by witnessing a game or a highlight. The game of hockey is fast paced, constantly moving with opponents trying to collide with another, while pucks torpedo into the body parts of bystanding players. It takes a lot of heart to stand in front of a shot to block it for your team, but it is the sacrifice one makes. Checking another player is a part of hockey, and it will always remain prominent in how one plays the game. For example players at a young age will grow up with coaches directing, “take the hit to make the play” . Body checking another player has the overall intent of getting the puck away from the opponent. By being aggressive while playing for my high school hockey team in the South Carolina state championship, I had to check another player and separated his shoulder in doing so. It was me giving my team my all to make a hit to try and make a play happen, it was not a malicious attempt to injure another, which is just what makes hockey a physical game. Checking a player can have an effect on both players involved though. In my case I have played hockey since about the age of eight and have had to visit the doctor multiple times for shoulder injuries, which still trouble me on a daily basis. Is this not the point to step back and ask if this is really going to be worth it in the end? Is the game of hockey considered a safe sport? This reminds that the safety of hockey is what causes the hockey community to split into different groups. There are those who say that the game is unsafe, but also those who feel that hockey has met all of the safety standards. Hockey safety continues to evolve day by day.
There are many rules and regulations in the game of hockey that make this sport safe. Just looking at a rulebook or even being aware of the specific rules can show this fact. The group that considers the game of hockey to be safe see that the game has implemented rules and programs to make it safe. The game of hockey has rules, and its own penalties just like any other sport does. Penalties give players guidelines on how to play the game properly and punish those who do not follow the rules. Besides penalties, players can be suspended from games and even give fines in some cases. This can be the case for illegal hits to other players, violent acts towards another, or even if a player gets too many major penalties. If a player is suspended or fined is to show the other players that those things will not be tolerated. If the rules are broken, a player may be punished in the same way. USA Hockey is the foundation which governs hockey inside the United States and every player has to be registered to play with USA Hockey at any level inside the U.S. Players have to sign the “Waiver of Liability, Release and Assumption of Risk and Indemnity Agreement”. To quote the first line, it states, “It is the purpose of this agreement to exempt, waive, and relive releases from liability for personal injury, property damage, and wrongful death, including if caused by negligence, including the negligence, if any, of releases” (USA Hockey, 2013, p. 1). This is saying that USA Hockey is not responsible for those things and that a player knows the risk before they play the game. All players have to sign this waiver in order to skate on the ice. In other words, you skate at your own risk. In 2010 USA Hockey implemented the “Heads Up Hockey Program” which has drills for coaches to teach their players safety, and also has safety guidelines for players, parents, and coaches to learn from. This is a quick reference guide to hockey safety, by teaching kids lessons such as to not duck from a hit, wear a proper helmet, and to always wear a mouthguard.
While USA Hockey is doing its role in educating the hockey community, there are various places that one can get safety information. One of those groups trying to educate players is apanel of professionals from Behockeysafe.com whom many have degrees related to sports or medicine and hockey related experience. Mark R. Lovell, Ph. D., FACPN, Professor and Director, was quoted saying, “Our number one opportunity is to educate players, parents, coaches and the medical community to recognize and appropriately treat concussion” (Lovell, 2011, p.1 par. 3). This professional shifts his focus towards doctors and medically educating those in the community, but there are those who work in other aspects that are a part of the panel. Ken Cove is the Senior Director Research and Development for Bauer Hockey, and has over 15 years experience with the product development of hockey equipment. Ken Cove states, “Our number one opportunity is to reduce level of risk and increase level of protection through education” (Cove, 2011, p. 2 par. 21). The panel has the website that has a frequently asked questions section for those concerned, but also a pamphlet that shows how a helmet properly fits. Between everyone on the panel they have over 150 years of experience combined. This is a shows that if we stick to tradition of knowing how to play the game safe then the game will continue to be safe and evolve.
One of the main reasons that people concur that hockey is a safe game is because of the HECC, the Hockey Equipment Certification Council. They were established in 1978 because of a request by USA Hockey to make sure equipment was safe for players. HECC validates which equipment can be worn in a game and that it passes all of the safety tests. Some of the newer helmets even have expiration dates that the player has to pay attention to. The HECC ran tests on a newly developed helmet brand called Cascade. They are a company who started to mainly focus on the reduction of concussions. They have different material inside the helmet that the other companies do not have. The testing from the HECC proved that the Cascade helmet had a 140% better impact performance than a regular helmet after taking multiple hits.
Testing and rules make people think hockey has met the standards for safety, but there are still those who oppose and say that the game remains dangerous. Concussions are growing and starting to become one of the most common injuries, but many other things can go wrong in a game. Looking at the safety of the game it starts at the beginning. As hockey first began there was barely any if any emphasis on safety, but began with equipment safety. An article was published by USA Hockey, written by Michael Csaszar, “Old Ice Hockey Equipment Vs. New Ice Hockey Equipment” argued that the game was unsafe since beginning. It shows readers how hockey equipment has evolved to become safer over time from a player’s skates to their elbow pads. In the beginning of the sport it was very unsafe and nobody, even the goalies did not wear helmets or facemasks on them. Csaszar reported in his article, “During the early years goalies wore no mask to cover their face. Severe injuries have now made it mandatory for all players and goalies to wear protective headgear” (Csaszar, p. 1). Goalies began to develop prototype helmets that were completely fiberglass with only a nose hole and two holes to see out of. The first goalie to wear a goalie was Jacques Plante on November 1st 1959. Goalies finally adopted the cage on the mask in the late 1970’s.
Another source that shows statistics of hockey injuries is a health study that was conducted by the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health in February in 2005. Robert G. Marx, MD, from McGill University Faculty of Medicine and Stephen Lyman who has a Ph. D from the University of Alabama used eight collegiate division one hockey teams from the same conference to monitor their injuries. There were about 23,000 total exposures. An exposure was classified as any time a player stepped on the ice for a game or practice. Out of the exposures there were 113 injuries, and games accounted for 23% of the exposures and 65% of the injuries took place in the games. This concluded that there was a much higher risk of being hurt in a game setting than in practice. The most common injury that occurred was a concussion at 20% and was followed by knee ligament sprains, joint injuries, and ankle sprains were last. Evidence provides insight that concussions were a major cause for concern because of the high rate.
There are similar studies that show the rate of hockey injuries like the one from Ohio State University, or even Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Research was conducted from 1990-2006 by the Ohio State University School of Physical Activity and Educational Services to research injuries. The United States Consumer Product Safety committee collected data from 100 emergency departments with about 8,00 hockey related injuries. Males accounted for the majority of injuries occurring 93% of the time. 29% of the time it was children 9-14 years old, with a slight increase as they grew older at 30% for the 15-18 year olds. Injuries to the face were the most common which happened about 19% of the time, but the highest injury was having a cut on the body which occurred about 30% of the time. The Ohio State research found that if a player is wearing the proper equipment then the chances of becoming injured or the amount of doctors visits would decrease. More recently, The Orthopedic Center from the Boston’s Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts found that the most injuries are when contact or collision is involved. In their study they found that about 40% of the injuries were kids 5-14 years old and concluded that the risk for injury can only increase with age. When looking at which sports had the most injuries they found that boys had the most injuries in hockey, soccer, and rugby. All of those sports are highly physical sports that involve a lot of contact with the lesser of the three being soccer, but there still remains contact. These studies show that the risk of your son playing hockey and being injured at some point in their career. It is an argument for those who believe the game is unsafe because it is actual facts and statistics to prove that there are a countless amount of hockey injuries.
Safety is a highly debated topic between almost everyone in the hockey community. Those will chose a side and stick to it, whether the believe of it being unsafe or that it is safe. The safety of the sport of hockey relies genuinely in the hands of the players, coaches, and officials. By teaching the proper way to play at a young age it helps the game grow safer as the children grow up. Those who believe the sport has met the safety regulations have solid ground to stand on. For starters, anyone who wants to play hockey inside the United States has to sign the USA Hockey waiver to make sure they know the risk that they are signing up for. There are also the programs that USA Hockey implement to teach proper safety. The HECC has to check all equipment to make sure that it has passed the proper tests in order for players to wear it. This translates that a player cannot play unless they are wearing proper equipment and if they are not then they may be asked to leave the ice or suspended. One of the last reasons to prove that hockey is safe is to look at a rulebook. Penalties and suspensions enforce rules and the proper way to play the game. They are what makes hockey safe, by showing the right way to play with guidelines. Those who feel that the game is safe enough, still have to debate those that think hockey remains unsafe. Facts point out that it is a contact sport and is one that causes a majority of injuries. Another reason that it is seen as being unsafe is that there may be players who are not taught proper ways to play. If a player has bad morals, or incorrect teachings, they can become reckless and seen as a danger to other players. This can be a major safety concern if rules are not implemented properly.
My brother was playing for a travel hockey team, the Charleston Jr. Stingrays, and was hurt during a scrimmage. It was not an actual game, but just a chance to play another team in a practice type situation. He went to get the puck from the boards, which is just a normal play that occurs very often, but he went down to the ice. It was a random occurrence as he went down and ended up tearing his ACL in a complete accident. He was wearing all of the proper equipment, but it still happened. It will end up costing him about six months of time to play and my dad a couple thousand dollars. The team that my brother was scrimmaging against was the College of Charleston hockey team, who I now currently play for. Was I not supposed to play college hockey in fear of being injured like my brother? It was a freak accident that randomly happened and it would probably never happen again. Injuries will be a part of the game always, even if there is contact or no contact at all. The sport of hockey is continuing to become more safe all the time, with new protective equipment being created each day. The National Hockey League, and other leagues are also beginning to review hits, or acts of violence to see if they were intentionally vicious or illegal actions to set suspensions and fines. This helps reduce the number of cheap shots by punishing another player and helps the sport become safer. As different injuries or situations unfold then researchers can look at them and try to find more solutions to improve the safety of hockey. This will help those realize that some of the injuries are intended to inflict pain on a player, but some may be accidental. When looking at further evidence it will allow those to decide and pick a bench to sit on, either with the team believing hockey is safe or the opposing team arguing that it is not.
When I was writing my essay versus my speech I had to look at my word choice, but also the style that I would write in. I feel that in my essay I have a more formal style and having a better grasp on how everything is organized. I had to make the essay as interesting as giving the speech by rewording things. For example the introduction of my speech painted a picture, and I had to do paint the same picture, but used information in a different order for the introduction for my essay. Throughout the whole essay I found that different information fit better in certain places than it did in my speech, which helped it become more organized. I used information that I did not have time to present while giving my speech in the essay as well. Also, I tried to take the constructive criticism from the class and limited my statistics in some parts, trying not to pile too much information on top of itself. There were some things that remained the same in both the speech in the essay such as the quote from the USA Hockey waiver, or when coaches say “take to hit to make the play”. I feel that things like those should be left the same because the coach quote has a lot of meaning whether it was in the speech or in the essay.
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