Ice hockey is one of the fastest popular sports in America, but the gear players wear and the regulations surrounding them are relatively archaic. Until very recently, an NHL player wasn’t even required to wear a visor, leaving most of his face exposed to pucks, sticks or anything else you can throw at one’s head in the middle of a hockey game. All of that will change soon though.
The New York Times reports that scientists at Virginia Tech are exploring “a rating system that measures each brand’s and model’s ability to reduce the risk of concussion.”
This is nothing new for football, which Dr. Stefan M. Duma, a Virginia Tech professor, claims is the only sport that poses a greater risk of concussion than hockey. “We want to produce a mechanism to try and reduce that risk of concussion,” Duma said.
That mechanism? The STAR rating — a term familiar to the football world. The five-star system is posted on every locker room in the NFL. It’s been fixed to every respectable football helmet since 2011, when the system was introduced. It helps guide parents of Pee Wee football players as much as it does the NFL as to which helmets are best for preventing concussions. Now doctors are researching the ability to transfer the STAR rating to hockey.
But that may be easier said than done. Hockey players move at much faster rates than football players and while they don’t suffer as many instances of hard contact, their impact moments could produce more force per hit. “While we haven’t done the tests yet, it’s hard to believe that hockey helmets are going to perform as well as football helmets,” one scientist noted in the article.
Whether or not the STAR rating applies to hockey helmets is yet to be seen. At the very least, it’s a strong positive step for the sport, and for all sports, that another system could be released so that more people are aware of concussions, empowering all to do everything they can to prevent or diminish ensuing brain damage.