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Think Ahead About Your Head

Since I was four years old I have been playing hockey. I started my travel career when I was a Squirt (8-10 years old). Now I am 12 and playing at the Peewee level (10-12 years old). Next year I enter the Bantams (13-15 years old), which means it will be the first year that I am allowed to check. USA Hockey rules allow different types of checking in the Bantams, from a body check to checking against the boards. I am really excited to finally be allowed to check and really play the game of hockey the way I have always wanted to, but with being allowed to check comes risk of severe injury.

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I have seen some of my best friends get severely injured playing in Bantams this year. One of my friends was picking up the puck along the boards when a player on the opposing team hit him from behind. He was knocked out cold and later pulled off the ice on a stretcher. Earlier in the year, that same kid got a concussion because another kid hit him from behind. Another one of my friends was hit from behind in open ice. He was five feet in the air, landed on his collarbone, then the kid that hit him from behind landed on him, breaking the bone. Seeing my friends get hurt like this is scary because it is happening to so many kids around the country.

Even though I am super excited to finally be allowed to check, I also need to be super cautious because of the risk of injury. A Journal of Pediatrics study found from 2001 to 2006, hospitals reported 502,000 cases of children and teens visiting the hospital due to concussions. About half of those incidents happened from sports and other recreational activities. In 2007, an estimate from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that, on average, the United States has as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions each year. This is a problem for all sports, not just hockey or football. It is a risk for kids like us to play these sports. Parents and coaches should become more aware of what is happening to thousands of children each year. The companies making equipment for the sports that require pads should really focus on how to protect the body and the brain. And kids playing any sport should understand the risks to injury. That is why I am writing this blog.

Recently, my mom joined a Task Force known as the National Council on Youth Sports Safety. She turned my attention to websites like USA Hockey and the Center for Disease Control’s website to read about “heads up” concussions. I did not know what symptoms to look for in a concussion. I did not know what to do if I had a concussion. Now I do and I urge you to learn, too. All it takes is a little homework and you’ll find that recognizing the symptoms is just as crucial as preventing the risk of injury. If you are as unfortunate as some of my friends have been, you will need to know what to do when you get an injury and, in particular, how to recognize and treat a concussion.