Children at Higher Risk for Brain Damage in Minor Hockey

Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Ontario, says aggressive checking should be banned from minor hockey. The study shows that “brain injuries like concussions often result from aggressive body checking and account for 15% of all injuries to players aged nine to 16.”

Dr. Cusimano and his team looked at 18 studies that reviewed rule changes in minor hockey. These changes resulted in up to six fewer penalties taken per game along with a substantial reduction in injuries.

Another study published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests children may be more vulnerable to brain injuries than adults. Researchers found children who suffered a concussion can have both cognitive symptoms and damage to white matter in the brain.

The surprise came when researchers discovered that changes to the brain’s white matter could be detected months after the injury even though cognitive symptoms resolved. This indicates that developmental differences in the brain and the musculoskeletal system may create greater risk of concussion and brain damage in children.

These structural changes to the brain following a concussion raise concern about when a child should return to physical activities. Second impact syndrome (SIS) occurs when another concussion is suffered before the first has healed. This can produce dangerous and even deadly consequences, as “SIS causes rapid brain swelling resulting in coma or death [but] can be prevented using American Academy of Neurology recommendations to protect athletes from returning to sports too soon after a concussion,” reports the CDC. It’s important for parents, teachers and coaches to recognize concussion symptoms in children and take care to ensure they are completely healed before they return to sports.

So if rule changes aimed at eliminating aggressive checking in minor hockey can successfully reduce the number of concussions our children suffer, all minor leagues should implement those rules.

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Tony Vecchio, K.C.
Tony Vecchio, K.C.
Anthony (Tony) Vecchio, K.C., founded Slater Vecchio in January 1998. He has been counsel on some of the largest cases in British Columbia.