Body checking found to cause few youth hockey injuries

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Unintentional collisions and falling into the boards cause more injuries in young hockey players than the practice of body checking, researchers at the University at Buffalo have found.

In a study that followed 2,630 boys over two seasons, results showed that 55 percent of injuries were caused by unintentional collisions with the boards, the ice, or between players, while body checks accounted for only 12 percent of injuries. Seventeen percent of injuries were caused by illegal checking. Results of the study appear in the current issue (Oct. 31, 2005) of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. Barry Willer, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and rehabilitation medicine, is lead author.

Legal checking in hockey is defined as hitting with the shoulder or trunk a player who has the puck or who has just passed the puck. It is considered as integral to hockey as tackling is to football.

Body checking frequently has been blamed for injuries among young players. Consequently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that body checking be prohibited until players are at least 16 years old.

Willer, who played and coached hockey for many years, said introducing body checking only to teens may actually increase the incidence of more serious injuries. "Bringing body checking into the game at an age when players are big, strong, fast skaters fueled by testosterone could be disastrous from an injury standpoint."

Willer's research showed that when body checking was introduced at age 9 there was a sudden increase in injuries, most of them minor. But within a year, players had adjusted to giving and receiving body checks and injuries dropped to earlier levels.

Another spike in injuries occurred among the 13-year-olds, results showed, which the authors attribute to "increased testosterone levels and concomitant aggressiveness." Injury rates in this g

Contact: Lois Baker
716-645-5000 x1417
University at Buffalo

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