U.S., Ontario launch efforts to curb concussions in youth sports
Both USA Hockey and the province of Ontario are making strides to reduce the amount of violent hits and collisions, particularly to the head, in youth sports and improving the way the recipients of those hits are monitored.
USA Hockey ratified the Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play and Respect at its annual congress in Colorado Springs, which ended last weekend, and Ontario’s Rowan’s Law will go into effect on July 1. Ontario has also initiated an ad campaign entitled: "Hit. Stop. Sit.”
The focus of the USA Hockey legislation is an effort to change the culture around body checking and competitive contact at all levels of play. It also clearly defines what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
Along with accentuating its policy of no hits to the head, the Declaration of Player Safety, Fair Play and Respect makes it clear that a body check must be an attempt to win possession of the puck and not an effort to punish or intimidate.
“This declaration was a collaborative effort of the leaders involved with safety, youth hockey, coaching and officiating and is a blueprint for shifting the mindset of body checking in youth hockey,” USA Hockey President Jim Smith said on the organization’s website. “It is imperative we make some significant changes, and this document outlines that way forward.”
In Ontario, Rowan’s Law establishes protocols for players to ensure they’re taken out of action if a concussion is suspected, requires a review of awareness resources and outlines a code of conduct that sets out rules of behavior.
The law is named after Rowan Stringer, a youth rugby player who died in 2013 from second impact syndrome after suffering three concussions in six days.
"We’re here because Rowan pushed it," former NHL star Eric Lindros told the Canadian Press at a press conference in Toronto for the "Hit. Stop. Sit." campaign. "She had three concussions in six days – that’s an extreme case – and she ended up dying. We don’t want anything close to that happening."
Lindros’ NHL career was cut short by concussions.
“Hit. Stop. Sit." shows how to better identify the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
A commercial featuring a female soccer player receiving repeated blows to the head before collapsing on the field has been shown at movie theatres across Ontario as part of the campaign. The spot made its TV debut during Monday’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
"You see anything that’s off or someone’s not feeling quite right, let’s pull them” out of the game, said Lindros, now 46. "Let’s not even question it."
The Hockey Hall of Fame member played 13 seasons in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars from 1992-93 to 2006-07.
Lindros, who was 6-4 and 235 pounds, suffered at least five concussions during his career. While he was playing for Philadelphia in a road game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lindros took a big hit from defenseman Darius Kasparaitis.
"I got into the showers, and when you’re in the visiting team’s locker room, all the emblems on the towels have the home team’s logo. I truly thought I got traded to Pittsburgh,” Lindros said. "I joke about it now. I thought I was getting a chance to play with Mario Lemieux, but that moment was bad … it was bad."
Lindros is now a father of three.
"We want everyone to buy in," he said. "Parents are going to protect their kids. Let’s look out for your kid’s teammates.
"Let’s go a step further and look out for the opposition."
In February, Lindros testified before a special House of Commons committee looking into what, if anything, the Canadian federal government should do about sports-related head injuries. He wants to see a single national concussion protocol based on Rowan’s Law.
"You always get a better message across when it’s one brand," Lindros said. "Look at Amber Alerts. Everyone knows it means there’s a missing kid.
"It would be great if in time if you say Rowan, you think concussion."