An Education in Neck Guards/NLPs

This may make some people angry - and for different reasons. Given the very sad death of a youth hockey player this January, followed by another near death 5 weeks later, I have to get this out.

You may think that the wide Bauer, CCM, Shock Dr., Agis (with its limited impact protection) or any other big-branded neck laceration protector (NLP/neck guard) is protecting your kid - and it could be – but maybe not - and only so much.

A 2008 Mayo Clinic study revealed collar-like NLPs were not the best shape to protect from a neck laceration. In fact, it was because of their shape there were times the NLP actually deflected the skate blade to the more vulnerable areas of the neck (think Carotid and Jugular).

A 2014 Mayo Clinic study revealed every brand-named NLP (Bauer, CCM, Shock Dr., etc) was cut through in their testing which was conducted in order to set standards so USA Hockey could mandate NLPs/neck guards - something USA Hockey told me they aimed to do during a face-to-face meeting in 2010.

Skate Armor was the only NLP not cut through in the Mayo Clinic testing. Skate Armor was also the only NLP offering full coverage of the Carotid and Jugular.

Skate Armor was the only NLP recommended by the Mayo Clinic as the standard for neck laceration protection. 

An email I received in 2014 from the Mayo Clinic prior to the study's publication stated - "Our final recommendation will likely be that the protector (sic. Skate Armor) provides the greatest anatomic coverage and most reliable cut resistance properties based upon the test results". 

This information and recommendation were presented to USA Hockey in 2015. USA Hockey voted not to set a standard and voted against making NLPs mandatory. Please note both Bauer and CCM attend these meeting and are major contributors to hockey organizations worldwide.

At this year's USA Hockey meeting in June, USA Hockey once again voted to not mandate NLPs/neck guards. They also voted to not make emergency trained personnel be onsite at all USA Hockey sanctioned tournaments.

From the experience I have gained and the people I have spoken with I get the impression the safety of our kids playing this great game is not always the priority of not only USA Hockey – but hockey companies, too.

Think about it, how many styles of NLP/Neck guards do Bauer and CCM stock (all made by a third-party contractor in Vietnam, BTW)? For the large hockey companies to have to completely get rid of these designs and only produce one design because a standard was set (a standard set by a product they didn’t design), would be a big hit financially for them. So, it seems margins are more important than a player’s life.

When I designed Skate Armor my plan wasn’t to make it a business. I naively thought I could share it with the big hockey companies. I thought I had built a “better mousetrap” and they would want to provide a safer product to skaters worldwide. How wrong I was – but that story is for a different blog.

Oh – and that wide Bauer, CCM, Shock Dr., Agis, etc., NLP your skater wears, whether in a shirt or by itself, it didn’t become as wide as it is until Skate Armor came along – and it didn’t offer the most reliable cut protection then, it still doesn’t.

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