EQUIPMENT MAKES DIFFERENCE
Properly sized gear can help prevent injuries
By KATE CRANDALL THE GAZETTE
Defenseman Nate Prosser suffered a serious concussion — his second in as many seasons — against North Dakota in early November. To return to play, Prosser was required to switch to a helmet with padding three-quarters of an inch thick that is adjustable on the back and sides for a snug fit. Many Colorado College players prefer lighter, smaller helmets with a thin layer of foam. While no equipment can guarantee protection from a concussion, CC equipment manager Ed Warner said he believes more helmet padding “can’t hurt.” Warner said he believes that the hard, molded plastic that has made elbow and shoulder pads more protective also adds impact to body checks. Most players elect comfort over safety, he said, and it’s common to see the players’ helmets bobble as they skate or fly off when the player is checked. “The chin cup should be tight against your chin and should be strapped so it’s not hanging down,” he said. “The helmet should be tight and not moving.” In the same grain, many players prefer not to wear mouthguards. The theory is that custom-fit mouthguards dissipate forces coming up through the jaw, Dr. Michael Stuart, USA Hockey’s chief medical officer said. “It’s the first thing I look for when they come off — was he wearing his mouthguard?” Warner said. “In my experience, I would say 90 percent of the kids who have had concussions are kids who did not have a mouthguard in or weren’t wearing them properly.” Right wing Jimmy Kilpatrick wasn’t wearing a mouthguard when he suffered a concussion in the third period of the Clarkson game Feb. 2. Kilpatrick had just released a pass and was looking at the intended receiver when a player skated in on his blind side and hit the side of his jaw. “My jaw was the worst part out of everything,” he said. “My bite just got back to normal. . . . The mouthguard might have helped my jaw, but the way I got hit, it wouldn’t have made a difference on the concussion. . . . I’ll wear one now.” In his first full-contact practice Tuesday, Kilpatrick wore the mouthguard, but could be seen gnawing on it at times. “I couldn’t breathe,” he said, “but I’m going to wear it.”
DAVID BITTON, THE GAZETTE FILE - Colorado College’s Lee Sweatt, left, tapped the ice with his stick as Nate Prosser was taken off the ice Oct. 20, 2006, because of a concussion. He suffered a second concussion this season and has switched helmets because of it.