Coroner calls for compulsory neck guards after tragic death of Adam Johnson
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Adam Johnson died after the freak on-ice accident while playing for Nottingham Panthers in a game at Sheffield Steelers on October 28. He was cut by the skate blade of another player and died in hospital.
The game was immediately halted and fans asked to leave the arena as emergency services tended to the 29-year old on the ice. Johnson, who played in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins was 29 years old. He joined Panthers for the 2023-24 season after previously playing in Germany, Switzerland and America.
Coroner, Tanyka Rawden, who is in charge of the inquest into Johnson’s tragic death made the call for mandatory use of neck guards, stating: “ In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.”
Players returned to the ice at the weekend for the first time since the tragedy and many opted to wear neck guards, but the Elite League has not made them mandatory, while encouraging all players and officials to wear one. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) recommends that neck guards or protectors are worn, but there is no requirement for ice hockey players over the age of 18 to wear equipment designed to protect the neck.
The inquest into Johnson’s death has yet to be heard, but the coroner’s concerns have been sent to Ice Hockey UK and the English Ice Hockey Association which have 56 days to respond.
The coroner added: “In due course the inquest will consider whether the use of a neck guard or protector could have prevented Mr Johnson’s death. At this stage in my investigation however, I am sufficiently concerned that deaths may occur in the future if neck guards or protectors are not worn.”
Before the coroner’s report was published, the EIHL said it “strongly encourages players and officials to wear one and clubs and the League will continue to support players and officials to do so."
The Scottish Ice Hockey Association (SIHA) has also written to its member clubs to outline a three-step approach to adopting the new safety gear.
In the short term, it has made a “strong recommendation” that all players at all levels across use an approved neck guard. This is in place until December 31 when they will become mandatory with immediate effect.
The reason for the interim step is to manage anticipated supply issues as leagues around the world move to adopting neck guards as part of players’ kit.
In the medium term - within 12 months, the Scottish association will conduct a player safety equipment review which will look at everything including helmets, mouthguards and facial protection. In the long term, it will also provide clubs with clear guidance on the ongoing and continuous improvement of player safety and their duties within this area.