Head injuries in junior hockey are widely underreported, in good part because there is pressure to return players to the rink as soon as possible.
That’s the gist of New York Times story Tuesday on the results of a study that were announced Monday in Toronto. As the base of that research, the Hockey Concussion Education Program kept track of two Ontario junior teams for the 2009-10 season. The players ranged in age from 16 to 21.
According to the study, there were 21.5 concussions per 1,000 man-games. That was seven times the rate, 3.1 concussions, reported in a 2005 study by the NCAA Division I programs, The Times said.
The Canadian study also said that there was “widespread pressure” to get players that appeared to have concussions back on the ice — despite medical advice to the contrary.
In one instance, a manager withdrew his junior team from the study because he did not like its medical exams during the games. In the first half of the season, when the team was being monitored, it reported eight concussions. In the second half of the season, when it wasn’t being monitored, that same team didn’t report any additional concussions, according to The Times.
The study also noted that some players don’t report symptoms that are indicative of concussions because they don’t want to have to miss a game.
Young athletes often want to stay in a game, even after being struck in the head. And the adults who are supposed to looking for their best interests often are not, according to Dr. Paul Sean Echlin, a Ontario doctor who worked on the education program study and is quoted by The Times.
“The pressure to win the next period, game or series is an important and overriding factor that blinds many of those who should be protecting our young athletes,” Echlin said in the study.