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Risks of Head Injuries in Hockey

Written by Ankin Law Office

With the Chicago Blackhawks vying for a chance at the Stanley Cup, Chicago has definitely caught hockey fever. Unfortunately, hockey remains one of the most dangerous sports for head injuries, and most of the sport’s victims are children.

Last year, researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto reported in the journal PLOS ONE that nearly half of all traumatic brain injuries among children in Canada who needed to be taken to an emergency department are caused by ice hockey. Specifically, researchers found that 44.3% of all sports-related injuries among Canadian children and teenagers were caused by ice hockey, with most of the injuries (nearly 70%) affecting children over the age of ten being hit into boards or player-to-player contact.

Dr. Michael Cusimano, who led the research, has said, “This shows that body contact is still an area where we need to make major inroads to preventing brain injuries. For example, enforcing existing rules and making more effective incentives and disincentives about checking from behind could make huge improvements.”

In fact, last fall, several former N.H.L. players filed a lawsuit against the league alleging negligence and fraud, accusing the league’s officials of taking inadequate steps to head injuries and, instead, creating “a culture of speed and violence.”

As we have reported, hockey, football, and other contact sports are linked with concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, which have been linked to a number of lifelong medical problems, including depression, fatigue, and sleep problems. A person who suffers a concussion is up to four times more likely to sustain a second concussion, according to neurologists, and athletes are especially susceptible to subsequent concussions. Secondary impact syndrome (SIS) can result in massive swelling of the brain and, in some cases, may lead to a loss of blood flow to the brain, which can place the athletes at an increased risk for learning difficulties and other neuropsychological difficulties. Moreover, research shows that a traumatic brain injury can also increase the risk of stroke.

Some experts are so concerned about the long-term impact of concussions in certain sports that they are calling for significant changes in the way certain sports are played. For instance, Dr. Rajendra Kale, a neurologist and interim editor-in-chief of the journal CMAJ, has called for a ban on intentional hitting and fighting in hockey, citing several athletes who experienced repetitive blows to the head during contact sports that resulted in severe medical problems, including short-term and long-term memory loss, chronic headaches, sleep disorders, mood and behavioral problems, psychiatric changes and even early onset dementia.

Thomas Smith, a former amateur hockey player, has proposed creating a “Look-Up Line” – a 40-inch-wide bright orange line that would surround the perimeter of the rink – in order to warn players that they are getting close to the boards, thereby preventing concussions and other head injuries that are caused when players come in contact with the boards at high speeds.

Hockey isn’t the only cause for concern, however. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries for children and teens rose 60 percent from 2001 to 2009.

Contact an Chicago Head Injury Lawyer

If you or your child is going to play hockey, it is important to keep certain safety precautions in mind, such as the enforcement of rules that prohibit head checking, hits from behind, and head contact.

The Chicago head injury attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC focus on representing the victims of head injuries, including children who have suffered a sports-related head injury.  If your child has suffered a sports-related head injury, such as a concussion, contact one of our skilled Chicago personal injury attorneys at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation.

Categories: Head Injuries