Hockey and Spinal Cord Injuries
Hockey is Canada’s national sport. Many Canadians have fond memories of playing hockey as youngsters. Many of us are fans of the sport, and by virtue of living in the GTA, are fans of the seemingly-cursed Toronto Maple Leafs.
Unfortunately, while hockey provides exercise, fond memories and excitement, injuries suffered during the course of play can be life-changing.
One of the greatest dangers for hockey players is an unexpected collision with the boards. Falling or being checked into the boards can have disastrous consequences. Many hockey careers have been ended by head or spinal injuries sustained in collisions with the boards.
One such person is Thomas Smith. In 2009, he suffered a serious spinal cord injury as a result of a collision with the boards.
Despite being unable to play hockey, Smith made it his mission to ensure that others would not suffer the same fate as he did.
Thomas developed the Look-up Line – an orange oval painted around the perimeter of the ice that warns players when they are 40 inches from the boards. The purpose of the line is to provide visual cues to players as to where they are on the ice reminding them not to body check another player from behind. It also allows players to be aware of their body position, so they can attempt to reposition their body should a collision with the boards become imminent.
In the United States, both USA Hockey and the NCAA have recognized the Look-Up Line as an important step in player safety. It is expected to be adopted in over 100 rinks in 15 states for the 2014-2015 season.
In Canada, the lines have not yet been adopted. However, in June 2014, the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) announced that it would begin studying the Look-Up Line.
One can only hope that leagues throughout Canada choose to adopt the Look-Up Line. Improving player safety should be paramount for all leagues and levels.
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