Safety of all involved in the game is the top priority each and every day for USA Hockey. Starting with the 2019-20 season, USA Hockey will implement a new position – Player Safety Coordinator -- within each of its 12 Districts.
Dr. Michael Stuart from the Mayo Clinic, who serves as USA Hockey’s chief medical and safety officer, discusses the concept below.
Q: Why is USA Hockey adding a Player Safety Coordinator for every District?
A: We felt it was important to have a person in each District whose sole focus is on player safety. This person will be a terrific resource for our members in each District to provide guidance on safety policies and share educational materials.
Q: What will the District Player Safety Coordinators' responsibilities be?
A: The Player Safety Coordinators will implement safety initiatives, distribute educational materials, collect athlete health profile information, ensure compliance with concussion protocol/state statutes, and help to develop an injury reporting platform.
Q: Is collecting and documenting information on injuries really necessary?
A: A national injury reporting system will allow USA Hockey to monitor injury location, type and severity that will foster preventative strategies.
Q: Should we be thinking about establishing Player Safety Coordinators at the club, association or even team level, too?
A: Yes. Our goal is to have a Player Safety Coordinator within each of the 34 Affiliates that make up USA Hockey and eventually someone similar at each association and with every team. Volunteers engaged in these safety-focused roles will ensure that education and prevention programs are in place, player health information is recorded, the concussion protocol is followed and all concussion return to play forms are completed.
In addition to having a Player Safety Coordinator in each District, beginning with the 2019-20 season, USA Hockey will issue an updated concussion management program. The most notable modification will be that for any player suspected of having a concussion, USA Hockey will require a return to play document signed by a physician before that player can participate. Some states already require that as a return to play standard, but many don’t. As the National Governing Body for ice hockey, we felt it was important to have a consistent return to play standard across the country for our sport.
Kevin Margarucci, who has more than 20 years of experience as a certified athletic trainer, has been involved in hockey in varying capacities (player, coach, certified athletic trainer) for more than 35 years.