Multiple studies have shown the connection between full-contact youth hockey and damage to the developing brains of young players.
In fact, the authors of a paper recently published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that brain scans of previously concussed young athletes revealed concurrent, injury-related brain changes, which were attributed to "participation in a full-contact sport that involves frequent blows to the head."
The research builds on work done by a neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia. In her research, Naznin Virji-Babul looked at brain scans of previously concussed athletes, most of whom were hockey players, and found that injury-related changes in adolescents' brains continue much longer than previously believed.
It has been well documented that multiple concussions in athletes can lead to a variety of mental health problems, including anger management disorders, depression, cognitive disabilities and personality changes. The new research suggests that, in order to protect the health and well-being of young athletes, a number of changes need to occur with respect to youth hockey.
Medical researchers have concluded that recovery periods after hockey-related head injuries should be much longer, and the role of bodychecking in youth hockey should be reassessed by governments, hockey organizations, coaches, parents and players. If bodychecking is to continue in youth hockey, then it is crucial that players are taught proper technique in order to avoid inflicting injury.
In a post from early November 2014, Gluckstein Lawyers discussed the importance of teaching young players that the purpose of bodychecking is not to harm, and that a bodycheck does not have to cause injury to be effective.
Regardless of the future of bodychecking in youth hockey, it is clear that more needs to be done to protect young athletes from the potential lifelong effects of brain injury.
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