Can the Look-Up Line™ Reduce Hockey Trauma?


The Look-Up Line™ just might be the answer to a safer game of ice hockey

Most major sports are conducting their own injury research and looking for ways to reduce the occurrence of head and spinal injuries. New studies are focusing on better diagnostics and treatment procedures; however we believe a preventative approach is far more effective. The safety challenge in ice hockey lies with how to continue developing bigger, faster and stronger athletes while trying to operate within a progressively safer framework. Thomas E. Smith—who became paralyzed from a hockey trauma himself—along with his Thomas E. Smith Foundation, has determined that the best solution to a complex problem is often the most simple one. They believe the Look-Up Line is the answer to a safer game of ice hockey, one that reduces the possibility of hockey trauma.

The Look-Up Line, ice hockey’s first warning track, is an important step in decreasing the risk of head and catastrophic spinal cord injuries. The Look-Up Line does not affect the speed, intensity or heritage of the game of hockey, and does not require new playing rules directed at the player.

The Look-Up Line is a warning track that extends 40 inches in width The Look-Up Linearound the circumference of the hockey rink. It provides players with information that will warn them to (a) keep their heads up in order to prevent head and neck injuries, and (2) be careful not to body check or contact opposing players from behind. The Look-Up Line warning track will be colored orange, which is a color universally associated with caution. This color will not interfere with any other lines painted on the hockey surface; the 40-inch-wide warning track allows for no overlapping of any face-off dots, lower circles, or hash marks.

Safety Progressions in Sports History

Change is difficult. However, when the change keeps athletes safer without negatively impacting play, it is undeniable. All of the following sports have made the proper playing surface modifications to help ensure participants’ safety before hitting a solid object:


  • In 1974, the NFL moved their goalposts to the back of the end zone
  • Additionally, it is required that players and coaches stand 5 yards back from the field of play


  • The NBA evolved its hoop to the current padded L-shaped framing posts to ensure player safety
  • Players, coaches and fans are required to sit at least 3-5 feet back from the court of play


  • In July 1949, the MLB implemented a warning track ranging from 10 to 15 feet around the perimeter of their playing fields


  • All Olympic-size pools have black lines on the bottom in each swimming lane. These lines end roughly 6½ feet before the edge of the wall.

These modifications all have one thing in common: They give athletes the opportunity to pick up their heads and make the proper bodily adjustments before hitting a solid object—something the Look-Up Line will do for hockey players, and that’s to help them avoid hockey trauma.

The Look-Up Line™ Network

In just under one year since it was first installed at the Pingree School in Hamilton, Mass., we are proud to say that the feedback has been amazing!  Currently 16 rinks have confirmed that they will install the Look-Up Line on their ice surfaces by September 2014. This includes 9 rinks in Massachusetts, 3 rinks in New Hampshire, 2 rinks in Connecticut, 1 rink in Pennsylvania and 1 rink in West Virginia. The Thomas E. Smith Foundation is confident that through collaboration and support we will continue to grow this number, and that progressive thinking will drive the change to make hockey safer for players at all levels. is reader supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

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