Adam Johnson: Coroner calls for ice hockey neck guards to be mandatory

Adam Johnson, 29, died after a "freak accident" on the ice. Credit: Nottingham Panthers

A coroner has called for neck guards in ice hockey to be compulsory following the death of a player whose neck was cut during a match.

Nottingham Panthers player Johnson, 29, died after a collision with a Sheffield Steelers player at Sheffield's Utilita Arena on Saturday, 28 October.

The incident has been described as a "freak accident" by the Panthers.

South Yorkshire coroner Tanyka Rawden has written a prevention of future deaths report, in which she expressed concern that more deaths may occur in the future if neck guards were not worn.

While governing body the English Ice Hockey Association previously said neck guards would be mandatory from 2024 onwards, that decision does not impact the UK's top ice hockey division - the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) - which is not under its control.

The EIHL announced last week it would not make the use of neck guards mandatory but would "strongly encourage" them.

In the prevention of future deaths report, Ms Rawden said: "In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken. In the circumstances it is my statutory duty to report to you.

"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."

She said she was concerned that the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) recommended neck guards or protectors to be worn, but there was no requirement for ice hockey players over the age of 18 to wear equipment designed to protect the neck.

The report has been sent to Ice Hockey UK and English Ice Hockey Association Limited, which have 56 days to respond.

The coroner added: "In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you have the power to take such action."

The inquest was opened and adjourned on Friday.

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