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Helmet Policy 2009

Mandatory helmets for shinny hockey? Our rink visits during the past three years have shown that many rinks with strict enforcement of the mandatory helmets-for-shinny policies seem to have fewer skaters. This seems especially true for youth. So far, city management has not been interested in revisiting the policy. However, CELOS (our little research group, ) is continuing to lobby for another look at the issue, this time with rink user participation.

Rink-related injury claims against the City: We recently obtained copies of all rink-related injury claims against the city, over the last ten years (figures before amalgamation are harder to get). The number of rink-related claims against the City in the last ten years is two, both during organized full-contact hockey inside arenas, one related to checking and one to a fight. There have been no helmet-related claims, nor any claims related to shinny hockey.

As shinny players know, shinny hockey is a game with different rules than full-contact hockey, and many shinny players feel it needs to be kept that way.

Increase in head injuries despite helmets: For those of you who play full-equipment hockey, be careful! It seems that quite a bit of sports medicine research shows that after helmets were made mandatory, head injuries went down for a few years and then began to climb, and are still climbing, as are spinal injuries. We've posted some medical journal articles on the cityrinks media page . The writers speculate that the full-body armour causes hockey players to hit harder (it seems like Don Cherry was right on this one).

The problem of full-contact, full-armour hockey: So it looks like much of the danger seems to be with body-checking rather than with absent helmets. We'll be returning to the topic again this season. So far, helmets officially remain mandatory for shinny hockey, but city rink staff have been instructed not to get into a confrontation with rink users who refuse to wear them (i.e. you can refuse and they're not supposed to throw you out). However, in many rinks the helmet rules are Job One for the rink staff, and -- sadly -- rink users are voting with their feet. Not a good approach for encouraging physical fitness, nor for the joy of the game.

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Content last modified on April 06, 2009, at 08:56 AM EST