Warn­ing line a dis­trac­tion

De­signer says ed­u­ca­tion needed be­fore im­ple­men­ta­tion

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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.

A the CAnA­diAn press

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