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Should bodychecking be prohibited in youth ice hockey?

Many kids start playing hockey in Canada at a young age. One recent study should give parents reason for pause. It addresses the risk of brain injury to young people who play the game.

One author of the study says that researchers found structural damage in the brains of young players who had suffered a concussion during a game. He also noted, "injury to a developing brain may be more severe than injury to an adult brain."

Other studies have also found troubling effects on adolescent hockey players who suffered concussions. One University of British Columbia scientist found that concussion-related brain changes in adolescents lasted longer than was previously believed. Therefore, longer recovery times may be necessary for young hockey players who suffer concussions.

In the U.S., the impact of concussions and other brain injuries to contact sport athletes of all ages have been the subject of much research and attention -- particularly when it comes to American football. However, American kids play hockey, too. The American Association of Pediatrics has noted, "Boys who play ice hockey in leagues that allow body-checking are two to three times more likely to suffer injuries and concussions compared to boys in non-checking programs." The group calls these injuries a "preventable harm" that could have lifelong consequences.

There have been calls for the elimination of bodychecking in Canadian ice hockey youth leagues in order to minimize the chances of TBI. Of course, bodychecking is part of ice hockey culture. However, the research has continued to produce troubling results for young hockey players.

In Toronto, an initiative has been proposed that would eliminate bodychecking in Bantam and Midget hockey. It's estimated that if such a ban was implemented throughout the country, as many as 40,000 serious injuries could be prevented among young players every year.

Ultimately, change will come when medical professionals, government entities, leagues and parents determine that bodychecking can no longer be allowed. However, if you believe that your child was injured as a result of the negligence of coaches, team officials and others responsible for his or her well-being, you should consult a personal injury lawyer to determine what your legal options are.

Source: The Vancouver Sun, "New research on hockey-related brain injuries suggests recovery time may be longer than thought," Stephen Hume, accessed Oct. 21, 2015

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