Bare Handshake a No-No Now in Youth Hockey

Filed under: In The News

Kids are now discouraged from hand-to-hand contact. Credit: Corbis

The latest casualty of the swine flu outbreak: Handshakes after youth hockey games.

With the flu spreading, USA Hockey, the national governing body for the sport, now recommends that kids keep their gloves on when they line up for traditional post-game hand pumps. Avoiding skin-to-skin contact may help prevent the spread of H1N1, they say.

But the anti-flu measures don't stop there. Players have also been told to drink from their own water bottles, to wash their hands regularly and to clean their workout gear before each practice and competition.

"USA Hockey is taking a proactive approach by simply offering basic, simple advice to our athletes," Dr. Michael Stuart, USA Hockey's Chief Medical Officer wrote in an email to ParentDish.
Other hockey organizations are doing the same. The International Ice Hockey Federation, the sport's worldwide governing body, also cautions against shaking hands and sharing water bottles.

The advice might keep children from catching swine flu, but the disease's threat has left parents uneasy. Hockey parents are especially anxious, too. Last month, Canadian youth hockey player Evan Frustaglio, 13, died from H1N1 after a weekend tournament.

Evan's father, Paul Frustaglio, told the Toronto Globe and Mail: "All I can tell people is just watch your children and if they don't seem right to you, don't hesitate to get medical attention. And if somebody says, 'Oh it's just the flu,' that's not a good enough answer."

Doctors, however, don't think parents should shut down their kids' athletic activities until flu season passes.

"Parents are justifiably concerned about their children's exposure, but this occurs at home, at school, in the community and with sports participation," Dr. Stuart noted. "(It's) not a reason to stop playing, in my personal opinion."

ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms our Kids (Beacon Press). Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at pdyouthsports@aol.com

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.