Thursday, July 29, 2021

Hockey player’s death ruled accidental, clubs to be issued safety guidelines

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Rod Gilmour
The Hockey Paper's Editor. First covered international hockey at the 2010 Commonwealth Games - no better than a full house watching India play England - and has reported for the Daily Telegraph and other major newspapers ever since. Co-founded THP in 2016.

England Hockey is expected to issue updated health and safety guidelines to all clubs following the death of a ‘kind and loving’ 14-year-old hockey player during an unsupervised warm-up.

Luke Hobson died last March after being hit on the head by a stick at Blueharts HC in Hitchin. His death was ruled as accidental following a two-day inquest at Hertfordshire Coroners’ Court this week.

Nick Pink, England Hockey’s chief executive, was present at the inquest and told the hearing that the governing body had produced new draft safety guidelines dedicated to Luke’s memory.

These will reportedly be issued in the coming weeks and will detail compulsory supervision when players are using a stick or ball at training sessions.

At the time of Luke’s death there was no supervision as coaches were locating the pitch floodlight switches, due to it being the off season and lights usually on a timer.

The coroner found that Luke’s injuries were caused by an accidental hit to the back of his head. According to the hearing, Luke was dribbling with his head low as he was struck by a fellow junior who was taking a shot at goal. Further details on how the shot was taken, either on the forehand or backhand, are not known.

The court also heard how the club now has proper procedures in place, including a coaching session checklist, while sticks and balls are not allowed on the pitch until coaches are present. A club defibrilator is now placed outside and accessible.

Luke’s parents, Helen Moss and Peter Hobson, said in a statement: “Luke was a kind and loving boy who at 14 had limitless possibilities ahead of him. Since Luke’s death we have done all we can to make sure that lessons are learnt so that no other family has to go through what we have.

“Luke was hit by a stick at a time when floodlights were not on and play was not being supervised, both of which may have contributed to his death.

“This should never have happened. It is now clear that stick and ball activity should be supervised at all times.

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“We welcome England Hockey’s new safe hockey guidance which aims to address these concerns as well as highlighting to clubs how dangerous unsupervised play can be.

“We urge all organisations playing hockey to take this guidance seriously and take all possible measures to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

According to The Comet, the family’s solicitor was calling for guidelines to be issued across the UK, however the senior coroner expressed that safety changes implemented specifically at Blueharts HC following Luke’s tragic death were satisfactory.

Geoffrey Sullivan, senior coroner, said that he would complete a ‘Prevention of Future Deaths’ report to England Hockey, with the aim that hockey incidents are reported “so further research into the effectiveness and safety of wearing a helmet in hockey can be carried out.”

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