700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Neck Guards: An In-Demand Addition to Hockey Safety Gear

Nov 29, 2023
close shot of young people playing hockey

In fast tempo games like hockey, it can be easy to get caught up in a play. It is in these moments when players will put their body on the line to win the game. In doing so, it can lead to some amazing highlight reels while revealing dangerous vulnerabilities.

Broken bones, pulled muscles and tendons, cuts, missing teeth and broken noses are all part of the game, but there is no reason to risk being in a life-threatening situation any more than necessary. Wearing the right equipment the right way can better your odds, keep yourself ready for the next play…and help to prevent a trip to the emergency room.

No matter your position, level of play, or age, even at the highest levels, competing with the best athletes to play the game, severe injuries can happen. As much as the game, rules, and equipment has changed, there will always be times when pucks, skates, and sticks still find the soft spots between equipment. Making sure that your safety gear is sized appropriately, is worn correctly and is in good shape will all help to prevent injury.

Potentially fatal injuries have still happened over the eras of play. Clint Malarchuk (1989), Richard Zednik (2008) and most recently, Adam Johnson (2023), are among the players who were cut in the neck by a skate. Most recently, the incident involving Johnson has reignited debate in the hockey world regarding the use of neck guards. Some players have already adopted the piece of equipment and have been wearing neck guards in games and practices. While in many American youth leagues wearing a neck guard isn’t mandatory, it is encouraged.

Movements towards requiring athletes of all ages to wear neck guards are picking up steam quickly: all three Canadian leagues now require neck guards to be worn by their players with the Western Hockey League following suit. Neck guards are on the fast track to be spread down to the youth levels as well.

Comparatively, in this expensive sport, neck guards are cheap. Ranging from as little as 15 to 70 dollars, neck guards are available in a variety of styles in an attempt to make it safer, as well as being more comfortable for the wearer. The implementation of neck guards may very well follow the mandatory use of helmets in the National Hockey League, with mandatory use of helmets beginning in 1979 and the last player to not have to wear a helmet retiring in 1996. With the professional hockey players being role models that they are, as more of them adopt the use of the neck guard we are likely to see youth hockey follow in their footsteps.

Since the recent incident, neck guard sales have risen dramatically, placing the equipment on back order. While manufacturers catch up with the demand, it’s important for parents and players to be patient as they look for this important piece of safety gear.

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Featured Expert

Christopher Beatty, ATC
Sports Medicine

Christopher Beatty, ATC, is an Athletic Trainer at Nationwide Children’s Sports medicine. He grew up in Columbus playing Hockey since he was 8 years old, and throughout high school. He was a goaltender, and while playing he learned a lot about altering and improving protective equipment, a skill which was further developed as he progressed as an Athletic Trainer.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Ryan Ingley AT, ATC
Sports Medicine

Ryan Ingley, AT, ATC, has been an athletic trainer for 13 years, working at Nationwide Children’s for seven years. He currently works in the Functional Rehabilitation and Play Strong departments of Sports Medicine. He started playing hockey at the age of eight playing at the travel, junior and college levels.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.