Parents Play Vital Role In Limiting The Risks To Our Little Gretzkys

No matter how padded, wrapped and taped our hockey players are, pucks can have eyes and bad intentions.

As Wasilla, Alaska, hockey mom Kellie Merrill found out, even the best helmet wasn’t enough to safeguard her daughter from a puck that found its way under the protective ear flaps and caused a cut that required stitches to her ear.

Freak things can happen on the ice, just like they can happen in our daily lives. Lori Lynn from Lakeville, Minn., learned that the hard way when her son took a hit straight to the jaw by the helmet of a shorter player, knocking him unconscious. He landed on his chin and broke his jaw on both sides. He dug deep, trained hard, fully recovered and went his entire senior year injury-free.

My son’s and daughter’s puck bruises were often big enough to earn themselves a name. I think the last one we called “Bruce.”

While Bruce and his other buddies typically healed quickly, one of the first things you learn is that injuries are bound to happen in a fast paced collision sport. But there are things you can do as a parent to help keep your little Gretzky as safe as possible when he or she hits the ice.

Making sure your son’s or daughter’s equipment fits properly and is in good condition before they hit the ice is a good first step. We all know equipment can be expensive, and with kids outgrowing gear sometimes before the final horn sounds on the season, we all want to stretch our dollar as far as possible. But what price would you put on your child’s safety and wellbeing?

Beyond the equipment, there’s something even more basic and so essential to keeping our kids safe. It’s called respect. That includes respecting the rules, opponents, referees and coaches. It also means playing the game under control both physically and emotionally.

“If you respect the game it will make it more enjoyable and safer to play,” says long-time Rochester Institute of Technology Head Hockey Coach Wayne Wilson.

“And if you wear the required equipment properly, and you play the game the way it is intended to be played – by the rules that are in place at all levels – the game is very safe and fun to play.”

Bruises and breaks are easy to spot, but USA Hockey’s Player Safety Manager Kevin Margarucci said in recent years, harder-to-spot concussions have sprung up as a hot topic of discussion.

Concussions can result in physical, cognitive, and neurological symptoms. While the use of helmets and full facial protection have essentially eliminated the risk of eye and dental injuries in ice hockey, Margarucci said there is no such thing as a concussion proof helmet. To that end, USA Hockey continues to stress good sportsmanship and playing within the rules.

“Prevention strategies to minimize concussions in youth hockey have focused on removing hits to the head, hits from behind and late hits,” Margarucci said.

USA Hockey continues to recommend a neck laceration protector for all players. The heightened discussions around lacerations from a skate blade reinforce the recommendation that players wear a neck laceration protector that covers as much of the neck as possible along with cut-resistant socks, sleeves, or undergarments.

USA Hockey, led by its safety and protective equipment committee, will work with equipment companies, and maintain efforts to ensure the safest possible environment for all participants.

Hockey is fun. It’s up to all of us to make sure the game is safe for our kids.



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