Hockey is growing in the US and with it, the debate of whether neck guards should be mandatory.
Neck guards are a piece of safety equipment worn around the neck of hockey players, to prevent lacerations from sticks and blades.
More attention has been brought to the neck guard debate after multiple tragic accidents have occurred. In 1989, one of the most infamous accidents in hockey occurred when Buffalo Sabor’s goalie Clint Malarchuk severed his jugular vein after taking a player’s skate to his neck. He miraculously survived but suffered from PTSD for decades.
Similarly, Florida Panther player Richard Zednik survived a neck laceration from a blade in 2008.
Despite these incidents and many others, the neck guard debate was relatively quiet until high school sophomore Teddy Balkind died after suffering a neck laceration in January. This horrific event made more people supportive of requiring neck guards. Soon after the accident, a petition to make neck guards mandatory in hockey was created and has now been signed by over 130,000 people.
While accidents like these aren’t common, one accident is one too many. When it comes to the safety of athletes, it’s always best to air on the side of caution.
Still, USA Hockey refuses to mandate neck guards because there’s not enough data to support wearing them. At the same time, they recommend that every player wear a neck laceration protector. The multiple gruesome events are plenty enough to support that something needs to be done to prevent neck lacerations.
Neck guards are seen as one of the most uncomfortable pieces of safety equipment, but once players get used to wearing them, they can adapt to this change. Temporary discomfort is a small price to pay for the well-being of millions of hockey players.
The smartest decision is to make neck guards mandatory in order to help prevent tragedies from occurring.