Ice Hockey Concussion Rules

Concussions in athletics have garnered a great deal of attention lately. Often it’s the sports of football and soccer that receive most of this attention. However, another sport with a high risk of concussion – ice hockey – has recently taken notice of the prevalence of this injury and is taking active steps to help protect its participants.

USA Hockey, the governing body of youth ice hockey in the United States, has restricted legal body checking in players younger than the Bantam level (ages 13-14) since 2011. Also prohibited at any level is any check to the head or neck. These strict standards and rule enforcement allow for improved skill development and a positive environment for all participants. The emphasis is placed on skating, puck possession, and the proper use of body contact

An additional step has been taken by the National Hockey League (NHL), with the introduction of a Player Safety channel on the NHL Videocenter. This webpage contains a collection of videos showcasing safe and legal hits in the game of ice hockey, as well as clips about recent player suspensions related to dangerous, illegal hits. The player suspension section offers detailed video explanations about why a specific hit was illegal and why the player was penalized. The NHL Videocenter Player Safety Channel is a valuable resource for young ice hockey players when learning what constitutes the difference between a safe, legal body check and a dangerous, illegal hit.

Lastly, many ice hockey leagues (including the NHL) require players to undergo a baseline neurocognitive test. Baseline neurocognitive tests assess a healthy person’s decision making ability, reaction time, memory, and attention. The test results are then used after a concussion is sustained to help a physician or other qualified medical professional determine if the athlete’s brain has
returned to its pre-concussion level of function. While these tests cannot prevent a concussion from occurring, they can help protect an athlete from being re-injured before the initial concussion has cleared.

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