Warning line a distraction
Designer says education needed before implementation
Researchers say a warning line intended to get hockey players to keep their heads up around the boards has the opposite effect.
The orange metre-wide line painted on the ice along the base of the boards — known as a look-up line — was designed by Thomas Smith, a former National Collegiate Athletic Association and former junior hockey player in the United States.
He wanted to remind players to look up before body-checking someone into the boards.
Smith was partially paralyzed when that happened to him. He believes the orange line prompts players to keep their heads up and avoid serious crashes into the boards.
But researchers at the University of Calgary say players in their study actually looked down at the line, which made them more vulnerable to injuries.
“It’s a noble concept and a noble idea and I thought it would be great to find evidence that would support this,’’ said lead researcher Joan Vickers. “I’m afraid not.’’ The study points to medical evidence that shows if hockey players have their heads down when they are pushed into the boards, they are at greater risk for head, neck and spinal injuries.
Researchers in the faculty of kinesiology spent a year testing the warning line at the Olympic Oval ice rink with the help of coaches and players from the men’s university hockey team.
Vickers admits she was surprised by the results, given that other sports such as football and baseball successfully use warning tracks to remind players to avoid certain areas.
Smith said the study proves the look-up line doesn’t work without proper player education. The study involved players that were not fully informed about the look-up lines and who only tested it for a short time, he said.
Getting used to change doesn’t happen overnight, he added.
“If it’s not being taught, the look-up line is not going to work,’’ Smith said.
The $50,000 study was funded by USA Hockey, which came to the University of Calgary.