RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — From the body checks to the slams into the boards, to those hard hits on the ice, there’s no doubt ice hockey is a full contact sport.
“Kids will bump each other from behind and kids will go flying into the walls, that’s the scariest part,” says Brian Goudie.
Goudie coaches the Richmond Royals youth league. There is limited contact at the young kids level, but Goudie knows a head injury is always a concern.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, boys hockey ranks second for concussions, right under football.
A concussion is brain injury resulting from a blow to the head that causes the brain to shake inside the skull.
In the rough and tough game of ice hockey, your only power play against concussion maybe your helmet.
However, Dr. Stefan Huma headed up a study at Virginia Tech’s School of Bio Engineering and Mechanics and found most hockey helmets score low in safety.
“We looked at 32 models which were all models of new hockey helmets on the market,” Dr. Huma told 8News.
Tech researchers performed rigorous impact tests with the hits coming in at different heights and speeds.
“For each helmet, we tested each helmet 48 times so front side, back, top, centric and non-centric,” explains Dr. Duma.
As with football helmets, Tech used a five star rating system with 5 being the best and 1 being considered marginal.
The results? Nine helmets failed to earn a single star.
“We think nine are performing so low no one should buy them,” says Dr. Duma.”
None of the helmets earned a four or five star rating.
8News shared the ratings with parents like Mark Shevrin, whose son plays for the Richmond Royals.
He was not shocked to learn his son’s helmet earned just two stars.
“Basically it’s plastic and styrofoam,” says Shevrin.
He counts on good coaching to keep his kid safe.
“They learn if they have to fall and fall in to the boards, they learn to tuck their head,” Shevrin added.
Yet, parents were surprised to learn helmet cost did not play a role in the rating.
“Some of the most expensive helmets didn’t perform that well, some of the cheapest were at the top of the list,” Dr. Huma explained.
As part the the study, researchers compared how much protection hockey players have on their body compared to inside their helmet, and what they found is their head is the least protected.
Researchers say more head padding and a slightly bigger helmet is needed. Their study already appears to be shaking up the system.
“Every week we have a new company in here testing a new device or a new product,” says Dr. Duma.
He expects we’ll see new helmets next year. In the meantime, the real power play is on coaches to teach safety.
“Teaching them the game, just to be aware of where they are on the ice, because it is a contact sport and keeping your head up is a big deal,” says Coach Goudie.