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The Safety Net

By Nicole Siglin, 02/01/23, 10:30AM EST


Calling all parents, coaches, rink managers, and spectators: Are you prepared for an emergency at the rink?

What happened on the football field with Damar Hamlin and the Buffalo Bills can happen without warning on any field or sheet of ice without warning. Because of the quick thinking of the medical staff who were able to give him immediate emergency care through CPR and AED use, he survived. Sadly, not every person experiences this same outcome, usually due to a lack of an athletic trainer, other medical staff, working/accessible AEDs - and the knowledge of how to find and use them. Survival rates increase exponentially when an AED is employed to treat someone in cardiac arrest, and often it’s the only way to save a life.

So, ask yourself, do you know where the AEDs are in your local rink? Does your local rink have them? Are they functioning and charged? Questions we don’t typically think to ask until we actually need them in an emergency. Here’s why you should know…

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the leading cause of death in youth athletes according to a study by the Mayo Clinic. While having an Athletic Trainer or other medical personnel at every game would be the ideal scenario to help mitigate this risk, it is not always the reality for many of our youth athletes. High School hockey in Massachusetts requires Athletic Trainers to be present at every game (in fact, games are not supposed to start until referees have confirmed they are there), however, that is not the case with most youth programs and tournaments. 

It’s here that league officials, parents, coaches, and rink managers play a key role in ensuring they can answer these questions and be prepared, which will increase positive outcomes in the event of such an emergency:

  • Does your rink have an AED?
    •  Do you know where it is?
    • Is it working and charged?
    • Is there signage that makes it easy to find?
  • Does anyone associated with your team know CPR?
    •  Having a member of your rink or coaching staff that is certified in CPR and the use of an AED is ideal.
  • Establishing an emergency action plan (EAP) in place for such emergencies:
    • Who is calling 911? 
    • Who is getting the AED?
    • What entrance should paramedics use? 
    • Who will meet the emergency response team and guide them to the right rink/area?

Lacerations from Skates, Sticks, and Pucks

Lacerations have also made the news of late with hockey players getting seriously injured from skates slashing across necks, arms, and legs. While neck lacerations garner the most attention, injuries to the forearm/wrist area, thigh, and Achilles area are much more common. To increase preparedness, USA Hockey has provided the following video to promote learning life-saving techniques with the Stop The Bleed program with specialized kits that every youth coach should have in their coach’s bag:

USA Hockey Player Safety | Bleeding Control Kit.

Additional safeguards to a bleed control kit would include a standard med kit stocked with first aid supplies and a tourniquet. This is especially important for our volunteer coaches (who are burdened with a lot of duties) as med kits often become an afterthought ...until it's needed.

USA Hockey also recommends the use of neck laceration protectors or integrated shirts with neck protection, choosing a design that covers as much of the neck area as possible.  

While we can’t eliminate the risk of injuries in hockey, together we can decrease the instances of serious harm by having some of these safeguards in place.  

AED awareness, med kits, bleed kits, and simple protections can help in making sure a bad day at the rink doesn’t turn into a catastrophic one. It all starts by asking the simple questions!

If you have any questions regarding these or other safety concerns, please contact USA Hockey Player Safety Coordinator, Nicole Siglin at