Making
The Right
Impact

Concussions are Hurting Kids - And the Game

The conversation about hockey head injuries - why they happen and what to do about it - has escalated in recent years as a number of professional athletes have suffered serious injuries.

There is now a substantial consensus, based on many research studies, that body checking increases the number of concussions and spinal cord injuries in ice hockey. Between 15,000 and 20,000 kids and youth will suffer brain injuries each hockey season. Conclusive evidence shows that concussions pose a significant permanent health risk to adolescents with more severe and longer lasting symptoms compared to adults.

The biggest safety issue in minor hockey today is body checking. This issue of needs to be resolved by weighing the risks and benefits of the practice by all those with a stake in the game. If we don’t consider changes to the game, we risk the future of the game.

Our Making The Right Impact campaign seeks to raise awareness, communicate the findings and evidence of the experts, and work with concerned parents and organizations to bring about sensible changes to the rules.

Knowing that concussions are most dangerous for adolescents, we are calling on Hockey Canada to raise the body checking age from 13 to 15. Join our campaign urging Hockey Canada to reconsider their position allowing body checking at the Bantam level and help reduce the likelihood of injury for youth.

How can you help?

Make the right impact by endorsing our letter calling on Hockey Canada to reconsider their position allowing body checking at the Bantam level. Endorsing the letter to Hockey Canada will lend weight and help us demonstrate broad interest in this public health issue, and that step need to be taken to reduce the incidence of injuries.

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BARRISTERS & SOLICITORS

3200•650 West Georgia Street

Vancouver BC, Canada V6B 4P7

Tel. 604 687 0411•Fax 604 669 9385

MICHAEL G. THOMAS

DIRECT LINE: 604 895 2873

mthomas@harpergrey.com

www.harpergrey.com

Re:   Body Checking at the Bantam Level

We have initiated an informational campaign, in conjunction with national and regional partners, on the unnecessary increase in concussions and spinal cord injuries arising from legal body checks in youth hockey at the Bantam level. This campaign has included radio, newspaper and television articles, online comments, and a video which has been viewed over 50,000 times on social media. Numerous concerned associations, organizations and individuals directly and indirectly involved with youth hockey have added their support. I have enclosed a schedule with this letter listing the associations, organizations and individuals that have asked that their names be brought forward endorsing this letter.

Legal body checking is the predominant mechanism of injury among youth hockey players, accounting for 45 to 86 percent of all injuries. This is particularly true with concussions and spinal cord injuries. Leagues that allow body checking have over three times the rate of more serious injuries (injuries which require one week or longer recovering from), more suspensions, and significantly more incidences of poor on ice behaviour. Introducing body checking at the Bantam level creates an unacceptable risk of injury. Youth aged from 1314 have the largest discrepancies in weight, height and power. As an age cohort, Bantam hockey players are at the greatest risk for injuries from body checking.

Due to the particular vulnerability of this age cohort, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that body checking be prohibited from all age groups lower than 15. The AAP policy notes as follows:

Boys who play ice hockey in leagues that allow body checking are two to three times more the likely to suffer serious injuries and concussions compared to boys in nonchecking programs.
Body checking in youth hockey constitutes a preventable harm in a sport that has the potential to be a lifelong activity.
The potential discrepancy in the sizes of 13 and 14 year old boys competing against each other in a collision sport makes this age cohort particularly vulnerable to body checking related injuries. There is an enormous range in size and strength between an underdeveloped late blooming 13 year old, who has yet to start puberty, and a 14 year old who reached puberty at age 11 or 12. The potential size and strength difference is not nearly as great at any other two year age span.

Hockey Canada has taken the positive step of banning body checking from the Peewee level and has set up committees to ensure that youth are taught how to properly give and receive a body check. However, empirical evidence suggests that earlier introduction of body checking has no statistical effect on reducing or preventing injuries caused from body checking; in fact, leagues that postponed body checking had a lower rate of injury in leagues in which delayed body checking was allowed. There is no empirical support for the “learn to take a hit” policy endorsed by Hockey Canada. Allowing body checking does not teach a skill, it impedes skill development because players focus on hitting and avoiding being hit rather than skating, puck and stick handling, receiving, shooting and other hockey skills. There is no empirical support for the safety benefits of the “learn to take a hit” policy; whereas there is clear empirical evidence establishing that the introduction of body checking in Bantam results in 1000’s of head and spinal cord injuries.

The mandate of Hockey Canada is to “Lead, develop and promote positive hockey experiences”. In eliminating body checking from the Midget level, Hockey Edmonton noted:

the animosity in the rink is down;
the scrums at the end of play are down;
there is an increased focus on skating, shooting and passing;
improvement in pace of play has improved; and
the game is now safer for kids who aren’t playing at elite levels.

Hockey is a great game. Yet participation rates are not keeping up with other youth sports and our youth are increasingly pursuing their athletic dreams in other sports. According to a survey conducted by Angus Reid (commissioned by the Rick Hansen Institute), 80 percent of Canadians would support a uniform national policy that would eliminate body checking for youth under the age of 15. Interestingly, only 17 percent of hockey parents believe that delaying body checking will hinder their child’s development as a hockey player, whereas 65 percent of hockey parents believe that it will make no difference or be helpful. We need to take steps to keep hockey growing and increase participation rates. Eliminating body checking in Bantam is a logical safe method to do this.

Hockey Canada plays a key leadership role in establishing the rules and regulations that govern youth hockey in Canada. Given the influence that Hockey Canada has on whether various leagues will allow body checking, the role that Hockey Canada took with respect to eliminating body checking from Peewee hockey, and your mandate to promote positive experiences in hockey; Hockey Canada may owe a legal duty to Canadian youth and their families to ensure that Bantam hockey players are not exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm. Maintaining the status quo creates a risk of reduction in funding from governmental and private agencies that wish to take a leadership role on this issue. Allowing body checking at the Bantam level, given the clear size, strength and power discrepancies amongst the participants, raises the possibility, as we have seen in other sports, of a class action being brought against Hockey Canada by youths injured due to your policy.

We hope that you will consider the issues raised in this letter and begin the process to discuss and consider changing Hockey Canada’s position on allowing body checking at the Bantam level. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you to improve the game, protect the kids and increase participation.

Yours truly,

HARPER GREY LLP

Per:Michael G. Thomas
Personal Law Corporation

Encl.
MGT/gap

Why should we reconsider the body checking rule in Bantam hockey?

300%+

Body checking leads to a 300% increase in concussions, making it the main cause of injury in minor hockey

Learn to take a hit

A common misconception is that the earlier kids learn hitting skills, the safer they’ll be when they enter checking leagues. Minor hockey leagues that allow body checking have a 300% increase in concussions and spinal cord injuries. Studies have consistently demonstrated that introducing body checking in minor hockey offers no safety benefit to players who go on to play in a body checking league.

45%–86%

45%–86% of all injuries in minor hockey can be attributed to body checking

Size matters

Introducing hitting at the Bantam level creates an unacceptable risk of injury. Youth aged from 13-14 have the largest discrepancies in weight, height and power. Legal body checking is the predominant cause of injury among youth hockey players, accounting for 45 to 86 percent of all injuries. As an age cohort, Bantam hockey players are at the greatest risk for injuries from body checking.

15,00020,000

15,000–20,000 kids and youth will suffer brain injuries in a hockey season

Body checking is unnecessary

Addressing safety concerns is one of the top priorities in getting more kids on the ice. Only 8% of Canadians believe that eliminating body checking from Bantam would have a negative impact on the game. The odds of an elite Bantam player (top 10%) playing an NHL game are approximately 0.7%. The odds of suffering one - or more - concussions, from body checking are far, far greater and have a significant negative impact on a player’s career. Anecdotal evidence suggests that players who come from non-body checking leagues are higher skilled in skating and passing.

82%

82% of Canadians support eliminating body checking from Bantam Hockey

The numbers say it all

The idea of eliminating hitting is already popular with players, parents and public health organizations. According to a recent study done by The Rick Hansen Institute, 82% of Canadians support eliminating body checking from Bantam Hockey. Several youth leagues and associations across the country have taken steps to remove checking among non-elite players.The estimated annual cost to Canada’s health care system from sport and recreation injuries among children and youth is $2.1B.

Media Coverage

The Ken Dryden rule: No hits to the head, no excuses

Read Article

Concussions will kill hockey. Gary Bettman needs to save it

Read Article

Campaign to ban body checking in bantam hockey divides parents.

Read Article

Handling concussions is a team sport. And we all need to be in the game.

Visit website

Support the campaign

The debate about how to reduce the number of concussions will shape the future of the game. Other sports are increasing in popularity at the expense of minor hockey. Safety and reducing concussions must be our main priorities for our kids and the future of hockey.

Hockey associations across Canada are reviewing body-checking in the Bantam and Midget levels of community hockey.

Please help remove body-checking from Bantam Hockey.

Together, we can make the right impact and lay the foundation for growth, supporting the next generation of players, coaches and parents.