September 18, 2008 – One need not be an avid sports fan to appreciate the horror of head and facial injuries in recent years: a puddle of blood gathers on the ice under the face of Toronto Maple Leafs’ defence man Bryan Berard, his eye slashed by a high stick; the career-ending concussions suffered by New York Islanders player Bret Lindros; or the 1995 Tour de France crash that killed Italian cyclist Fabio Casartelli. Even the most ardent of sports fans will acknowledge that these incidents cross the line from a run-of-the-mill injury to something more, something too gruesome to be entertaining.
In 1972, the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA), which governs amateur hockey across the country, mandated that all players wear Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified protective helmets and face masks. Since that time, the number of CHA registered players has increased by almost 100,000 while the number of eye injuries has dropped from 290 per year to less than 10. In 1972, 43 players were partially blinded. By 2001, that number had dropped to two.
Many Canadian provinces and US states mandate by law that cycling helmets be worn while riding a bicycle. Some jurisdictions require that it is mandatory for riders under the age of 18 to wear a CSA-certified helmet. All suggest that wearing a CSA certified cycling helmet is the best way to help prevent or minimize head trauma in the event of an accident. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, since 1994, the incidents of head-related cycling injuries has decreased from almost 1,100 per year to about 500 in 2003. There has also been a decrease in the number of fatalities, according to figures collected by Transport Canada.
Damage to eyesight can also have a long-term impact. The proper use of protective eye wear can help to avert a disaster. In 1977, CSA introduced the face protector standard with respect to hockey equipment (later amended to face protectors and visors).
From 1972 to 2002, a total of 311 hockey players’ eyes were blinded. Not one of these injuries was suffered by a player wearing a CSA-certified full-face protector. However, during the past few hockey seasons, nine players have suffered a blinding injury while wearing certified visors (half shields). In all cases, it is suspected the visors were not properly positioned. Helmets must be secured to the head by a taut chin cup, not a loose neck strap.
Since 2003, CSA Group has tracked various benchmarks though its Key Performance Indicators (KPI). In 1994, about 1,100 cycling-related head injuries were recorded in Canada. By 2003, that number had dropped to about 500. The introduction and revisions of several CSA standards during that time period suggest that they have helped to speed this decrease.