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Traumatic brain injuries in hockey: More common than you’d think

Hockey stick and puck

It’s one of Minnesota’s most iconic sports. But it’s not without risks.

Ice hockey is among the most dangerous team sports in terms of traumatic brain injuries. In fact, it ranks right up there with football for the highest rates of concussions, which a growing mountain of research has shown to cause serious long-term effects.

When it comes to our neighbors to the north, where the sport enjoys a similar level of popularity, hockey accounts for more than 40 percent of sports-related injuries among Canadian youth. Football, by contrast, accounts for less than 13 percent.

How do concussions happen in hockey?

Skating at high speeds in close quarters is inherently risky. And on top of that risk are the brawls and roughhousing that competitive hockey is famous for.

Even the most seasoned of skaters can slip up. All it takes is a single collision between skull and ice to cause permanent – or even deadly – brain damage, as the recent death of a seasoned youth hockey coach so tragically illustrates.

Staying safe on the rink

The most important way to protect your noggin? Wear a helmet – one that fits properly – and keep it tightly strapped in place whenever you’re on the ice.

Steer clear of leagues where body checking is allowed. Research shows that drastically reduces the risk of concussions, especially among young and inexperienced players.

Finally, know how to skate safely – and how to fall safely. Stay away from the “danger zone” around the side boards. Avoid skating straight into the boards, and practice using your arms and hands to absorb the shock of a collision.

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