May 26, 2011

Wear Your Helmet!

For some of the hockey games that I play in, I am required to wear a helmet; for other games I am not required to wear one. Wearing a helmet is to protect your brain from injury. Hockey helmets are made of a hard plastic that disperses force from the point of contact, while the liner may be made of a type of foam to absorb the energy, and reduce the chances of concussion. 

I’ve had multiple concussions due to sports and construction collisions, so you would think that wearing a helmet would be something that I would always do. But, for most of my life, I never really liked wearing a helmet when I played hockey, I felt that it partially blocked my vision. I especially did not like wearing a “cage” over my face, and even today I don’t wear one.

I guess it is also because I grew up watching old time hockey where the players didn’t wear helmets. One of the more notorious players known for not wearing protection on his melon was Lorne John "Gump" Worsley; affectionately known to Minnesota North Stars fans as "the Gumper" (see video below). Although he played most of his career with the Montreal Canadians (until he came to Minnesota in 1970), North Star fans were glad that we had another goalie to help out the great Cesare Maniago (who did wear a mask but also didn’t wear a helmet). Tough men who left a bad example for the rest of us

To try to reduce the number of head injuries, in 1979, the National Hockey League made a rule making the wearing of helmets mandatory for all new players entering the league. Any player already in the league and not wearing a helmet is allowed to continue without one until they retire. They probably figured the old timers had thick enough skulls to not comply. 

On Friday evenings in April and May of this year (when my regular winter hockey season was finished), I played hockey with players of high caliber; most of them played in college, Junior Leagues, WHL, or CHL. For these games I am required to wear a helmet. 

During that same time period, I spent every Tuesday and Wednesday morning volunteering with DinoMights Hockey (see video below) teaching 1st graders to skate; quite a change in venues in one week! Even though the kids were required to wear a helmet, I was not.

Recently, however, I had an “epiphany” about wearing helmets. While skating backwards, I caught an edge of my skate on the ice and fell and hit the back of my head so hard that not only did I see stars, but others outside the rink ran over to the glass/boards to see what happened. Instantly, a bump the size of an egg grew on the back of my head before I got off the ice. I was NOT wearing a helmet. I spent the next two weeks uncomfortable at night and not able to get a full nights rest due to the bump as well as pain in my neck from whiplash.

Ironically, the injury took place when I was teaching the first graders; not playing with the big boys. This was actually the second injury to my head this hockey season; as well as the many other hard hits to my head that I took this past season while wearing a helmet. My epiphany is that I will now always wear a helmet when I am on the ice; whether it is required or not.

Concussion experts note that athletes are often keen to return to play as soon as possible and may be reluctant to report symptoms, which is why it's critical to watch the injured person carefully. "When in doubt, sit them out" is the new rule, so I took myself out the games for the next two weeks and made a decision to rest my brain. 

As foolish as I may be to not wear a helmet playing hockey, as a Christian I am even more foolish is to not wear a different helmet. The most critical "helmet" I need to wear is the one that is absolutely essential for the combat we are presently engaged in. It is the helmet designed by God. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul writes about this helmet in his letter to the Ephesians; “And take the helmet of salvation…” (READ Ephesians 6:10-20 for the complete context)

The Apostle Paul wanted followers of Jesus Christ to understand that the war they were engaged in would be taking place in their minds; not hand to hand against an enemy they could see. Paul wanted them (and us) to understand that the devil wanted to take their thinking away from the kind of thinking God wanted them engaged in. Paul wanted them (and us) to understand that they had a means of protection for their heads and their minds and so he exhorted them to “Put on salvation as your helmet”. 

The potential damage to our minds (by not wearing the helmet of salvation) is greater than the damage caused by a concussion. Not only can it affect our current life in what we think and believe about ourselves (and others), but can have eternal consequences as well.

How do we put on the helmet of salvation? By remembering who we are in Christ — that we have been given salvation and the authority over the devil to battle him and win. By remembering that God has our very best in mind and that He won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to withstand it and that He’ll cause everything to work for our best. 

To try to help reduce the number of “head injuries” we need to put on the helmet of salvation each day. Unfortunately there is no rule making the wearing of the helmet of salvation mandatory for all when they become a Christian; the choice is up to you.  

But, you need to realize that you don't have a thick enough skull to not comply. Wear your helmet!

DinoMights is a youth development program featuring hockey, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The philosophy of DinoMights centers around maintaining relationships with youth from their elementary years through high school graduation, and providing them with the various kinds of support they need to become self-assured, competent adults. DinoMights uses a unique approach that is founded on mentoring relationships. Staff, coaches, and tutors all seek to share the love of God with DinoMights by actively loving them. Good News to urban youth is the opportunity to participate in a positive activity that can truly be a family for them. It is in this environment that they can come to know the great love of God. The four areas that they mentor in are: Developing Physical, Social, Academic, and Spiritual.

Other Christian Hockey Ministries:

Hockey Ministries Int.

Okontoe Hockey:

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