Making Ice Hockey Safer
ー Ice hockey is a team sport enjoyed by a wide variety of people around the
world. The object of the sport is to move a hard rubber disk called a “puck”
into the other team’s net with a hockey stick. Two teams with six players on
each team engage in this fast-paced sport on a hard and slippery ice rink.
Players may reach a speed of 30 kilometers per hour sending the puck into
the air. At this pace, both the players and the punk can be a cause of serious
ー The speed of the sport and the slippery surface of the ice rink make it
easy for players to fall down or bump into each other resulting in a variety of
injuries. In an attempt to protect players, equipment such as helmets, gloves,
and pads for the shoulders, elbows, and legs, has been introduced over the
years. Despite these efforts, ice hockey has a high rate of concussions.
ー A concussion is an injury to the brain that affects the way it functions; it
is caused by either direct or indirect impact to the head, face, neck, or
elsewhere and can sometimes cause temporary loss of consciousness. In less
serious cases, for a short time, players many be unable to walk straight or see
clearly, or they may experience ringing in the ears. Some believe they just
have a slight headache and do not realize they have injured their brains.
ー In addition to not realizing the seriousness of the injury, players tend to
worry about what their coach will think. In the past, coaches preferred tough
players who played in spite of the pain. In other words, while it would seem
logical for an injured player to stop playing after getting hurt, many did not.
Recently, however, it has been found that concussions can have serious
effects that last a lifetime. People with a history of concussions may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Moreover, they may suffer from
psychological problem such as depression and mood changes. In some
cases, players may develop smell and taste disorders.
ー The National Hockey League (NHL), consisting of teams in Canada and
the United States, has been making stricter rules and guidelines to deal with
concussions. For example, in 2001, the NHL introduced the wearing of
visors – pieces of clear plastic attached to the helmet that protect the face.
At first, it was optional and many players chose not to wear them. Since 2013,
however, it has been required. In addition, in 2004, the NHL began to give
more severe penalties, such as suspensions and fines, to players who hit
another player in the head deliberately.
ー The NHL also introduced a concussion spotters system in 2015. In this
system, NHL officials with access to live streaming and video replay watch for
visible indications of concussion during each game. At first, two concussion
spotters, who had no medical training, monitored the game in the arena. The
following year, one to four concussion spotters with medical training were
added. They monitored each game from the League’s head office in New York.
If a spotter thinks that a player has suffered a concussion, the player is
removed from the game and is taken to a “quiet room” for an examination by
a medical doctor. The player is not allowed to return to the game until the
doctor gives permission.
ー The NHL has made much progress in making ice hockey a safer sport. As
more is learned about the causes and effects of concussions, the NHL will
surely take further measures to ensure player safety. Better safety might lead
to an increase in the number of ice hockey player and fans.