Parents push for changes after a young hockey player is hurt

WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Hockey has been a part of Brianna Puhr's family for years.

"We have three boys – and two of them play hockey," she says. "We have a squirt level and a mite."

And now, her youngest wants to play too. But after a young Fargo player's throat was accidentally cut on the ice Monday, Puhr has new reservations and she's not alone.

"This happens to somebody your kids age and it's like – oh my gosh, that could have been my child out there," Puhr says. "It's a scary thing, to think that that happens to kids."

"It's one of those things as a parent – you're always worried about safety. You definitely want to make sure that they're as safe as possible," says David Benson, the father of two young hockey players.

Doctors say hockey accidents involving throat lacerations are rare, but when they do happen - it can be serious.

"They're really very uncommon. I've been doing hockey for twenty years and I can count probably four lacerations of the neck," says Dr. Scott Grindel, a Sports Medicine and Orthopedics Physician with Sanford Health. "Although - this year, this is the second one that I've heard of. Not here in Fargo, the other one was a Minnesota boy who was a goalie."

"Any neck injury is going to be serious," Grindel adds. "The carotid arteries are the most probably dangerous because they run right here under the muscle. They're relatively deep, so it takes a little to get to them, but once you get to them – you can bleed out quite quickly."

One thing that can make hockey safer for players are throat or neck guards. Currently, they're not required by Fargo or Moorhead Youth Hockey Associations, or by USA Hockey - but that hasn't stopped parents from picking them up for their players.

"You don't see them on the ice. You really don't. You can count maybe a handful of kids that even wear them. That's what's scary about it," says Puhr. "My kids will be wearing them. We will be getting them going forward."

"When you talk to a young child about it, and you say, 'This happened in Fargo.' I definitely saw my child, his eyes opened up. I said, 'I really want you to wear that neck guard.' And he goes, 'Yes Dad, I definitely will,'" Benson says.

The rush to protect players has created a temporary shortage of throat and neck guards. There were 15 guards at Fargo's Scheels store Monday, but by Tuesday afternoon – the store was sold out.

And buying neck guards doesn't solve all of the problems either.

"My younger son does like wearing his neck guard, my older son does not like wearing his neck guard," says Benson. "He doesn't think it's very comfortable, he's not used to it. He gets hot in the shirt because then neck guard is in the shirt."

"Younger kids, and particularly, the older adult players don't like wearing them because they can be uncomfortable, they can be constricting – particularly when you're sweating or when you're breathing hard," says Grindel. "If you're getting one for your child, make sure that it fits them well and they're comfortable in it because if they're not comfortable in it, and you're not around – they're probably not going to wear it."

Now, parents are asking for changes so their kids can safely keep playing the sport they love.

"They should be a requirement at any level, I think. Because you have the little ones falling all the time just learning to skate, all the way up through your high school kids who are rough and tough out there," Puhr says.

"I think the game is evolving now to where I don't think it's too far down the line before we see neck guards mandated by USA Hockey," Benson adds.

We reached out to the Fargo Youth Hockey Association to see if they're considering a rule change that would require players to wear neck guards - we haven't heard back yet.

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