The GTHL slowly wakes up


In a sign that the slumbering Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) is finally waking up to the science and the sentiment around hockey injuries – especially concussions – the Toronto Star reports that bodychecking will be taken out of the game until the players are aged 13 and up, and that “over time,” the league will eliminate bodychecking at its “A” level.

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The GTHL’s move is a small step in the right direction, but a far cry from what the league – and all other minor hockey leagues – should be doing to protect their players and the integrity of the game.

It’s been proven repeatedly that young hockey players suffer far more injuries, including brain injuries, when playing “contact” hockey. There’s a reason that adult recreational leagues in North America are non-contact: the men and women playing don’t want to end up in the fracture clinic, the physiotherapist’s office, or the head-trauma centre as a result of a hobby game. And yet we insist that children playing the same sport “learn how to hit” while they’re young.

Professional ice hockey players accept that risk of injury. Young players playing at the “AAA” level still might think they have a chance at such a career, so they and their families may choose to accept a risk of injury as they buck the 1-in-6,000 odds against making it pro – so be it. But everyone else – and that includes the vast majority of minor hockey players – should take the GTHL’s move, expand on it, and cut back on the concussions.

 

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