Adam Johnson death: ‘Risk of future deaths’ unless ice hockey neck guards become mandatory, says coroner | UK News
The coroner investigating the death of Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson has said neck guards should be mandatory.
Sheffield’s senior coroner Tanyka Rawden opened the inquest into the death of Mr Johnson on Friday after he was hit in the neck by the skate of a member of the opposing Sheffield Steelers team at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena.
Her report, addressed to Ice Hockey UK and the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), says: “During the course of the investigation my inquiries revealed matters giving rise to concern.
“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.”
Ms Rawden outlined the “matters of concern” as: “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.
“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.”
The death of the 29-year-old American shocked the hockey world, especially because the incident happened in front of 8,000 fans, including many children.
According to the Prevention of Future Deaths (PFD) Report: “During the game Mr Johnson sustained an incised wound to the neck caused by the skate of another player.
“He was taken by ambulance to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield where he died as a result of his injury.”
The report requires the governing body to respond within 56 days and adds: “Your response must contain details of action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action.
“Otherwise, you must explain why no action is proposed.”
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It is highly unusual for a coroner to issue a PFD report so early in an inquest. They are usually produced after a full inquest is concluded and Ms Rawden made it clear on Friday the hearing will not take place for many months.
South Yorkshire Police are also continuing to investigate the incident.
The Elite Ice Hockey League has said it will not make the use of neck guards mandatory but will “strongly encourage” players and officials to wear them following the tragedy.
Last week, the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) said neck guards will become mandatory from 2024, but the Elite League is not under its control.
Ice hockey fans paid tribute to Mr Johnson at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena on Saturday, with many supporters in tears as they signed books of condolence.