Ice Hockey Concussion Rules

Concussions in athletics have garnered a great deal of attention lately. Often it’s the sports of football and soccer that receive most of this attention. However, another sport with a high risk of concussion - ice hockey - has recently taken notice of the prevalence of this injury and is taking active steps to help protect its participants.

One step has been taken by USA Hockey, the governing body of youth ice hockey in the United States. Beginning with the 2011-12 season, the age for legal body checking has been raised to the Bantam level (ages 13-14) from the Pee-Wee level (ages 11-12). Also beginning in the upcoming season is a rule that prohibits any check to the head or neck.

An additional step has been taken by the National Hockey League (NHL), with the introduction of a Player Safety channel on the NHL Videocenter. This webpage contains a collection of videos showcasing safe and legal hits in the game of ice hockey, as well as clips about recent player suspensions related to dangerous, illegal hits. The player suspension section offers detailed video explanations about why a specific hit was illegal and why the player was penalized. The NHL Videocenter Player Safety Channel is a valuable resource for young ice hockey players when learning what constitutes the difference between a safe, legal body check and a dangerous, illegal hit.

Lastly, many ice hockey leagues (including the NHL) require players to undergo a baseline neurocognitive test. Baseline neurocognitive tests assess a healthy person’s decision making ability, reaction time, memory, and attention. The test results are then used after a concussion is sustained to help a physician or other qualified medical professional determine if the athlete’s brain has returned to its pre-concussion level of function. While these tests cannot prevent a concussion from occurring, they can help protect an athlete from being re-injured before the initial concussion has cleared.

Consult your primary care physician for more serious injuries that do not respond to basic first aid. As an added resource, the staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine is available to diagnose and treat sports-related injuries for youth or adolescent athletes. Services are now available in five locations. To make an appointment, call (614) 355-6000 or request an appointment online.