JAMA logoA comparison of hockey leagues in Canada for 11-12 year olds reveal that leagues which allow body checking are associated to a 3-fold increased risk of injuries which include severe injuries and severe concussions. Carolyn A. Emery, Ph.D., B.Sc.P.T. of the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and colleague’s evaluated if risk of injury between a league that permits body checking and a league that does not. Internationally there are different rules considering the age in order to introduce body checking.

In the United States body checking is a must for all leagues including the age group 11-12 years. Leagues that do not consider body check-up exist through all age’s upto 15-16 years. This study included 2,154 players from top 60 percent divisions of play and it was conducted in Alberta and Quebec during the 2007-2008 Pee Wee ice hockey seasons. Experts measured the rate of game and practice related injuries and collisions. In Canada the youngest age for body check up is 11-12 years (Pee Wee). It is also revealed that the province of Quebec, however, Bantam the youngest age group for body check up is 13-14 years.

“Ice hockey is a popular North American winter sport, with more than 550,000 registered youth players in Hockey Canada and more than 340,000 registered players in the USA Hockey Association in 2008-2009. Despite the advantages of sport participation, there is increasing concern regarding the frequency of ice hockey injuries in youth,” the authors write. They reveal that recent attention has been focused on the increased frequency of concussive head injuries in youth hockey. According to background information in the article it is the most common type of specific injury, accounting for more than 15 percent of all injuries in 9- to 16-year-old players.

Experts observed that Seventy-four Pee Wee teams from Alberta and 76 Pee Wee teams from Quebec completed the study. It was identified that there were a total of 241 injuries in Alberta and 91 injuries in Quebec. The ratio of game related injuries recorded in Alberta vs. Quebec was 3.26 this included all injuries. 3.88 was the ratio for collisions. It was further revealed that the ratio for major injuries was 3.30 and for major collision the ratio was 3.61.

The authors share “The estimated absolute risk reduction (injuries per 1,000 player-hours) that would be achieved if body checking were not permitted in Alberta was 2.84 for all game-related injuries, 0.72 for severe injuries, 1.08 for concussion, and 0.20 for severe concussion. There was no difference between provinces for practice-related injuries”.

Findings evolving from this study may have a favorable impact in the decision making related to body check up in youth ice hockey. The public health implication linked with injury in 11-12 year olds is important and body checking is allowed in this group. Further study should be comparing the injury and impact risk in the next group. Players in one group will have 2 year body checking before Bantam participation. The authors conclude that further analyses will enable to reduce risk of injury among youth ice hockey participants.

This study is according to a study in the June 9 issue of JAMA.