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USA Hockey Considers Revision to Body Checking Rules to Reduce Brain Injury to Youth Players



Dr. Dean Karahalios, neurosurgeon with the NorthShore Neurological Institute at NorthShore University HealthSystem and representative for the NBA Players Association Second Opinion Networkfor Brain and Spine Injuries applauds new rules adopted by the Northwest Hockey League of Illinois designed to delay the introduction of body-checking to the game of youth hockey.  USA Hockey, representing nearly 600,000 hockey players in the U.S., is considering a similar change.  Under the new guidelines body checking will not be allowed until players reach 14 years of age and are playing as part of the Bantam division.  The new rules go into effect for the Northwest Hockey League of Illinois Spring 2011 season and if adopted, the Fall 2011 season for the USA Hockey programs.  Prior to the rule change, body checking is allowed in the Pee Wee division designed for 12 and 13-year olds. 

Recent studiesreviewed by Dr. Karahalios have shown an increase in head injuries and concussions as a result of body checking.  Furthermore, concussion research has also demonstrated that youth sustaining concussions may require more recuperation time than that of a more mature person.

In addition to the new rules in youth hockey as well as in the NHL, Dr. Karahalios urges athletes, parents, coaches, trainers, teachers and other supporters of youth sports to know the signs and symptoms of concussion.   “The outward signs and symptoms of a concussion can be extremely subtle.  Behavior changes, sleep disturbances, nausea, and headaches are among those symptoms which can be indicative of a concussion as well as a host of other conditions,” comments Dr. Karahalios.  “Parents, coaches and teachers should also look for memory and thinking ability changes, not only immediately after the hit, but in the days following the event as well.” 

Dr. Karahalios offers a concussion reference tool which is easily downloaded from his website.  Click here to review and print the handout.

Updated 02-03-2011

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