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The Connecticut state legislature's Committee on Children has approved a bill to study safety issues in youth sports, including the use of neck guards in hockey, in response to the death of 16-year old hockey player Teddy Balkind. According to Hearst Connecticut Media, the bill creates a nine-member task force of medical and athletics experts, and now heads to the state House of Representatives.

The bill eclipses previous legislation introduced in the wake of Balkind's death. The New Canaan high schooler who played hockey at St. Luke's School, died January 6 after his neck was sliced by an opponent's skate during an accidental collision. Immediately after Balkind's death, legislation had been introduced to mandate the use of neck guards for all youth and high school hockey players. However, it soon became apparent that legislators were not sure whether or not Balkind was wearing a neck guard when the fatal accident occurred.

Per the legislation, the task force would be given until January 2023 to study safety issues and offer initial recommendations on the use of neck guards in youth hockey. Beginning in 2024, the state Department of Public Health would be required to meet annually with representatives from youth, intramural, and interscholastic athletic programs in order to review best practices for injury prevention.

Although the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference requires neck guards for hockey, private schools -- such as St. Luke's -- do not mandate their use. As it pertains to youth hockey, there have been mixed feelings from medical experts on the use of neck guards, with some feeling they could put excessive stress on young players' spines.

"They said they can be more dangerous than helpful," state senator Saud Anwar, a physician and committee co-chairman, said. "We need to make sure that in our passion for protecting our youth, that we get experts to look at the issues and to come up with sound, appropriate ways of protecting athletes."

It should be noted that the NHL does not require the use of neck guards, despite past incidents where players have suffered near-fatal bleeding after having their necks slashed -- notably Clint Malarchuk in 1989 and Richard Zednik in 2008. Balkind's death was met with an outpouring of support from the NHL and its players, who memorialized Balkind by spearheading the "Sticks Out for Teddy" trend.