Head Injuries Are Preventable
It’s a contact sport, but…

Like any other contact sport, hockey has its share of sudden jolts. Players routinely make contact with other players, with goal posts, boards, pucks, sticks…and of course, with the ice itself. But injuries-especially potentially serious head injuries are not part of the game.

You can raise your players’ awareness of spinal injuries and concussions by learning more about how injuries happen, by passing this information along to your players, and by practicing specific prevention and playing techniques detailed in this guide.

Let’s start by learning more about how these injuries happen.

How spinal injuries happen in hockey


The upper spinal column has a natural curve, which lends flexibility to the head and neck when the head is held in a normal “ Heads Up” position (See illustration A).

But when the head is flexed (chin toward the chest), this normal curve is removed, and the cervical spine becomes straight, as illustration B demonstrates.

In this “head down position,” when a player hits the boards or a goal post head on, the head stops suddenly, but the body’s movement continues, compressing the spine. This force can produce a shock greater than the neck’s discs and muscles can cushion, resulting in a fracture or break of one of more vertebrae. And if one breaks, it can cause compression of the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis below the level of the fracture.

According to research done among a wide range of hockey players, almost all on-ice cervical spine injuries have been due to the head being slightly flexed (head down) while making head-on contact with the boards or goal post.

A player doesn’t have to be going at full speed for this to
happen — it can occur at walking speed.

So that’s the basis for Rule One of Heads Up Hockey: Heads Up — Don’t Duck!