The Importance of Neck Protection in Ringette

‘‘It is tragic when horrible accidents, like the deaths of Adam Johnson and the 11-year-old boy in Quebec, occur. These devastating events remind us of just how important equipment safety is in all sports,” said Julie Vézina, Executive Director of Ringette Canada.  

On October 28, 2023, Adam Johnson died after sustaining fatal injuries following an on-ice collision during a game. Johnson was a member of the Nottingham Panthers ice hockey team in the English Ice Hockey Association. 

In the wake of this tragedy, several hockey leagues including the Western Hockey League and Ontario University Athletics, have made neck guards mandatory.

The IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) Council, on recommendation from its Medical Committee, has mandated the use of a neck protector, specifically designed for this purpose, at all levels of IIHF competitions beginning in 2024. Until then, the IIHF continues to strongly recommend that neck laceration protectors be worn by all players performing in an IIHF competition.

“Many ringette players also play ice hockey at some point, and vice-versa, so it is very positive to see more and more leagues make the move towards mandatory rules regarding neck guards to ensure player safety,” Vézina said. 

With ongoing education, player attitudes towards safety can evolve and protective equipment, like neck guards, can become more widely worn across all ice sports. 

“There is always more work to be done to improve the overall quality of neck guards, some of which can be too thin, not wide enough, prone to sliding down the neck and/or liable to shrinking in the wash, etc. Ringette Canada would love to see more research in this area and we are here to support and work alongside evolving brands as they evolve their products, to help keep our players as safe as possible.”

There was recently another neck injury that occurred during a hockey game in Ottawa. A young player suffered a cut to the neck and is speaking up about the importance of wearing protective equipment properly. Brandon, 15, spoke to CTV News, and said the incident happened during his second shift of the game. While he was wearing his neck guard, which is mandated by Hockey Canada for his age group, he was not wearing it properly.  

“My neck guard didn’t do that much because I taped it and put it under water,” Brandon said. According to him, this modification impacted the guard’s ability to properly protect his neck. He says this is a growing trend he has noticed amongst teammates, but reiterated that it has to stop before other serious injuries occur.

While Brandon has not been cleared to play yet, he says when he does, he will be wearing all protective equipment properly. “I got very lucky,” he said.

Vézina closed by saying, ‘‘Even though it is clear in ringette’s equipment rules that a neck guard is part of the required equipment, it is so important to keep an out for one another and hold each other accountable to be safe during practices and warm-ups. Accountability is one of Ringette Canada’s core values and we all need to work together to make sure everyone has the protection that they need. It’s not just about having required equipment, it’s also making sure it’s being worn at all times and being worn properly.”

You can find more information on ringette’s required safety equipment here:

Territory acknowledgement

While we are a proud Canadian organization, we acknowledge that our head office is located on traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People, and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Ringette Canada extends our respect to all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples for their valuable contributions to this land. We are committed to moving forward in the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.

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