Perhaps the biggest cloud hanging over sports – both youth and professional – in the last few years has been head injuries. The conversation about concussions still lingers over professional football and ice hockey, and the discussion has filtered down to youth and high school sports, where the problem also exists.
For myself, a new parent and recreational ice hockey player, the internal debate on whether to allow my child to participate in these sports has already begun. But do I really want to be the dad that dictates the activities my daughter can participate in?
I may have a long way to go until my daughter is lacing up her skates or knocking a ball around in some fashion, but it’s worth considering. I’ve seen myself take plenty of falls on the ice, crashing into the boards. My co-workers have seen me hobbling through the office.
And the path for a female is usually quite different from a male – and that’s if she’s even interested in playing sports. For one, she most likely won’t be playing football, given national statistics on females, especially young ones, picking up the sport. But that doesn’t mean she’ll automatically be safe from head injuries.
According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, sports-related concussions account for more than half of all emergency room visits by children aged 8 through 13. And there are a number of studies showing that concussions have even more of an impact on developing brains.
A study released in 2012 by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council puts football, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling and soccer at the highest rates of concussions among male sports. For female sports, it’s soccer, lacrosse, basketball and ice hockey.
While the rate of concussions is mostly higher in male sports, concussions in girls’ basketball occur at twice the rate of boys. Good thing I’m not a big basketball fan. However, the point here is that there is the possibility of head injuries in many sports for both genders.
“In the past decade, few subjects at the intersection of medicine and sports have generated as much public interest as sports-related concussions – especially among youth,” the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council report states.
Even some of the non-traditional sports such as gymnastics have seen a rise in concussions.
For me, I’ve already pictured strapping skates onto my daughter’s feet whenever she’s old enough, hoping that she’ll take to it. I’ve skated alongside women a handful of times, both in pickup games and in league games, and they always seem to shake things up. Plus, in women’s ice hockey, there’s no body checking allowed, so perhaps her mother will sign the permission slip?
Even for boys, body checking in ice hockey isn’t allowed until Bantam hockey, between the ages of 13-17. According to a recent article in USA Hockey magazine, some parents look for alternative leagues for their boys to join during those ages, steering clear of body checking during ages when developing boys can have large size differences.
My wife doesn’t exactly have a clean bill of health from her sporting history, either. Her love of horses has resulted in two falls while riding, and an even crazier accident while on solid ground. Her horse, which she has since sold, kicked her in the midsection, lifting her off her feet and prompting a trip to the ER and months of internal bruising. She was considered lucky.
So will it be ice hockey or horseback riding for our daughter? Maybe it’ll be golf. We’ll have to let you know.