The Inherent Danger Of Sports, And Grappling With Its Worst-Case Scenarios

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A great story from this week’s Sports Illustrated: “The Way We Play The Game,” which should have been on the cover …

JACK JABLONSKI—known as Jabby to his friends and the kids like Cade who grew up skating with him on the lakes around our homes—is not the first boy to break his neck playing this game. But he is the first one whom we who have kids still in Minneapolis youth and high school hockey programs have watched grow up. From the minute we first nudged our children onto the ice, we knew to expect bumps and bruises. Their ligaments rip. Their bones break. Their brains bang around in their heads.

This season, prompted in part by a University of Calgary study that showed alarming rates of concussion and injury in youth hockey when players were allowed to body check, USA Hockey raised the initial checking age from Pee Wees (ages 11 to 12) to Bantams (ages 13 to 14). The organization also outlawed all blows to the head. Checking from behind has been a penalty since 1978.

But you cannot regulate all risk out of hockey. No one can eliminate the danger inherent in a body crashing into the boards. “It’s every mom’s fear,” says Leslie Jablonski, Jack’s mom. “Every time I hear that sound, I gasp. I shut my eyes and hope to God that everything is O.K.”

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