We want our child to play well and succeed. We want them to have fun. We want them to be safe.
Hockey gets a bad rap sometimes. Mainstream media’s hypersensitivity to malicious hits and fighting at the game’s professional levels can make it seem like hockey is an endless string of jackhammer collisions and fisticuffs, even though youth hockey is nothing like that at all.
Parents who are unfamiliar with actual hockey may see these unfair portrayals and conclude that the sport is dangerous, when in fact, according to an August 2013 study by Safe Kids Worldwide, the overall injury rate among ice hockey players between the ages of 12 and 17 was lower than the injury rate in football, wrestling, basketball, soccer, baseball and cheerleading.
Still, it’s great to be safety-minded, and Dr. Michael Stuart, chief medical officer of USA Hockey and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, offers the following on- and off-ice safety guidance for the upcoming 8U season.
Safety in hockey is enhanced by body-control skills, proper-fitting equipment, existing rules of the game, sportsmanship and a mutual respect for your opponent.
Teaching Body Contact the Right Way: Although there is contact, hockey is a safe sport for young athletes. The reported risk of injury in games for mites is 0.8 per 1,000 hours, which is very low. Body-checking is not allowed at 8U, but through small-area games and station-based practices, mites will be slowly and safely introduced to body contact while strengthening their skating and puck-possession skills.
Heads-Up Hockey: Players should always keep their heads up. Not only does it help them become better hockey players, it greatly helps avoid head, neck and spinal cord injuries. Learn more about the Heads Up, Don’t Duck program.
Concussions: Concussion prevention is a priority for USA Hockey. Proper-fitting equipment, including helmets, neck guards and mouth guards, are key pieces.
USA Hockey has a plethora of resources and information on concussions, concussion management and returning-to-play procedures.
Proper-Fitting Equipment: It doesn’t matter how expensive a piece of equipment is. If it doesn’t fit, it won’t protect your child. Find equipment that fits.
Flu: To avoid the flu this season, USA Hockey recommends:
- Providing individual water bottles. Do not share water bottles.
- Regularly washing hands.
- Cleaning workout gear for each practice/competition.
- Keeping gloves on during the traditional handshake with opponents.
Parents want to know that their kids are safe on and off the ice. USA Hockey’s SafeSport programaddresses these off-ice concerns.
Administrators, coaches, officials, parents, players and spectators all must abide by the SafeSport Code of Conduct, which includes various policies, screening and other requirements to ensure player safety. Locker room, electronic communications, travel and billeting are addressed to prevent sexual, physical and emotional abuse, along with bullying, threats, harassment and hazing.
All policies, handbooks, posters, brochures and reporting forms are available for download.