With 85 days left to what is expected to be the biggest international ice hockey event ever, the IIHF considers it essential to communicate its rules and policy to hits to the head and neck area. The rule in Vancouver 2010 is simple: There’s no such thing as a clean hit to the head.
The IIHF rule on Checking to the Head & Neck Area (Rule 540) was adopted at the 2002 IIHF Annual Congress in Sweden following research into the cause of concussion and its long term effects. This rule if be very much in force during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
IIHF Sport Director Dave Fitzpatrick holds the highest executive position from where he oversees the implementation of the IIHF rule book and regulations such as the anti-doping program, transfers and eligibility issues.
“The calling of this rule follows the same principles as the rule on checking from behind,” said Fitzpatrick. “This means; a two-minute minor plus a ten-minute misconduct, a five-minute major plus an automatic game misconduct or a match penalty.
“The IIHF has a supplementary discipline rule where all such calls can be reviewed and additional suspension added if deemed necessary.”
“The Checking to the Head & Neck Rule has been embraced by all of the IIHF member national associations as it helps them to instill and reinforce the seriousness of this type of action within their own leagues while maintaining our theme of ‘Fair Play and Respect’ in all of our IIHF competitions.”
“This rule is backed by scientific research and study. The application of the rule begins to address the insurance costs for medical attention of injured players plus the insurance for contracts between injured players and their club for missed time due to such head injury. We have learned through our research that the recovery from a concussion and the return to play is an individual one and can vary from player to player and increases with each additional concussion sustained.”
“The Checking from Behind rule enforcement brought about a true understanding of the consequence of such hits in ice hockey along with a reduction in incidents. In the same manner, the Checking to the Head & Neck Area rule is also bringing about greater awareness and understanding of the consequences caused by direct blows to the head and neck area. This IIHF rule is beginning to show the desired results in our sport.”
Murray Costello is an IIHF Vice-President and the chairman of the IIHF’s Medical Committee. The Ottawa-resident and former NHL player (Chicago, Boston, Detroit) was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2005 for his leadership achievements in Canadian amateur hockey and for his contributions to the international game.
Costello was instrumental in introducing the “zero-tolerance” approach regarding hits to the head eight years ago.
“From the beginning, hockey has been called a body contact game for a reason. It was never intended to be a head-checking game.”
“The IIHF has played an integral role in organizing three global Concussion Symposia to study the effects of hits to the head across all sports.”
“They involved leading medical experts in concussion from all parts of the world, and among their many findings, one certain and indisputable conclusion is that head hits are cumulative, that once concussed, a lesser hit each next time can bring on another concussion, often more serious than the first, and that they pose serious threats to the victims, if not immediate, then later in life.”
“With the size and speed of today's game, the players’ talents and their lives are far too important to subject them to direct hits to the head. We must eliminate them from the game, in the same way we removed hitting from behind, to avoid the threat of spinal injuries.”
“In every instance, quick-reacting players today have time to read, react and avoid a direct hit to the head. They can by-pass that one dangerous, highly vulnerable hit without ever jeopardizing the contact in our game. There will always be plenty of contact in hockey, without the need for hits to the head.”
“That’s why our head-checking rule is valid, important, and must remain in the international game.”