By Greg Price
Taber Recreation Board members were made aware of a new helmet policy at its Dec. 4 meeting town administration has adopted for the town’s public skating sessions.
“One of the things we did this year was the staff felt very strongly that this was something worthwhile. Previously, we had those 12 and under wear a helmet,” said Aline Holmen, Town of Taber recreation manager. “We have different individuals who public skate very well who have great skating skills, and others not so much. We gave people a two-month grace period to warm into the idea, so September and October, and we are now enforcing that rule. There are a lot of municipalities switching to everyone wearing a helmet. Hockey is requiring all their coaches wear helmets on the ice.”
Holmen added initially, the initiative was met with some resistance, but now not so much. There was some confusion on whether it had to be a hockey helmet, but it only needs to be a CSA-approved helmet.
“A hockey helmet is preferred but it can be any CSA-approved helmet, so it can be a bike helmet which a lot of people use,” said Holmen.
“So we decided to go that route and other municipalities are going that route as well. There are others that strongly recommend. We had an individual who chose not to wear a helmet and actually fell and got a concussion while we were trying to promote this. It reinforces what we are trying to do.”
Taber Recreation Board members were given concussion information involving helmet use for public skating. It involved a recent study by the Department of Pediatrics, from Ohio State University showing that 321 children out of 419 were injured while skating over a 31-month period. It showed the proportion of head injuries among ice skaters in the study were greater than that observed for participation in other types of skating in which a helmet is also recommended.
“There is a lot of promotion for coaches, parents, teachers to enforce helmet rules because of concussion awareness. There are three organizations that are trying to prevent concussions in sport in general,” said Holmen.
“We felt like we made the right decision.”
Luke Wijna, chairman of the recreation board noted any negative feedback from the new helmet policy for public skating will likely come from adults as opposed to children.
“Look at how many adults bike without a helmet. You see them on the street here. When I bike, I bike without a helmet,” said Wijna. “I have no problem with the policy. But what about things like skateboarding? Skateboarding has some pretty high injuries too. How are we going to deal with that too?”
While recreation board members echoed support of the policy, others added to Wijna’s concern that only certain user groups should be targeted with the policy.
“Do figure skaters wear helmets?,” questioned town councillor and recreation board member Randy Sparks. “They are using a Town of Taber facility and the liability there is great. They are doing things that are way more dangerous than someone public skating. I know they are hooked up with an organization, but what is good for one is good for all within a facility in the Town of Taber. What they do is as dangerous as anyone else. Yes, they have insurance, but if we can’t enforce figure skating, how can we enforce adults?”
Holmen replied that administration chose not to enforce this year with rental groups themselves after discussions with insurers and decided to go with public skating because it fell under the umbrella of a town-sponsored activity. Non-sponsored town events have their own insurance under their own organizations.
“Figure skating is not, rec hockey is not or Joe Blow’s Monday night small ice rental. We chose not to expand it over the whole facility, but we chose our own program to see how it would be received,” said Holmen.
According to administration during the media inquiry session of the recreation board meeting, an average of between 80 to 100 skaters are on the ice during a public skating session at the Taber Arena in which it has seen as high of 150 skaters.
Municipalities that have adopted a helmet use policy for all skaters include Brooks, Okotoks, Drayton Valley, Lloydminster and Leduc.