VCU club hockey looks to protect players from long-term injuries

Brian Hill
Contributing Writer
Commonwealth Times’ Sports Twitter

VCU hockey players wear neck guards and mouthguards, along with certified helmets to avoid concussions. Photo by John Kosak

The shocking deaths of three former NHL players this past summer, all victims of concussions during their NHL career, has brought concern to the VCU club hockey team as it opens its season.

Concussions are becoming more common in the world of sports, which is why the squad is taking the proper precautions on the ice to avoid serious head trauma.

The last time a Rams hockey player sustained a concussion was midway through last season. Precautions kept the player out nearly 10 days.

The coaches are well-informed about the effects a concussion can have on a player’s life and the possibility of long term mental problems as a result.

“I think today’s medical staffs are a lot more cautious of long term medical issues and lawsuits than in the past,” VCU coach Kevin St. Jacques said. “My players are taught to play with their head up and to protect themselves when being hit.”

Youth and college players wear neck guards and mouth pieces along with a full face mask and a certified helmet to provide protection against concussions and other serious injuries. Current professional hockey culture allows less equipment in general, including helmets.

The deaths of the three recognized hockey enforcers, the team’s roughest and most physical players, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Derrick Boogaard have been linked to their aggressive style of play.

Benjamin Nolan, a six-year club hockey veteran of the Nova Ice Dogs and one-year veteran of the Bowie Bruins said enforcers are extremely common in this sport.

“An enforcer is someone who protects their team at all costs,” Nolan said. “Their job is to be the backbone of the team and enforce as a physical presence, even if that means retaliating against the opponent.”

The NCAA and the NHL could develop a new rule or penalty that would decrease the risk of crucial blows and cheap hits.

Most fans are not favorable to rule changes.

“I don’t think the league should soften the game,” VCU student and hockey fan Zachary LaRoche said. “Guys live for hockey, in part because of the potential to make big hits throughout the game.”

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