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Hockey Fistfights Rarely Cause Injuries, Study Claims
Date:10/22/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Brawls on the ice are a staple of professional ice hockey games, but are they as vicious as they look? A new study suggests that few punches thrown during National Hockey League games end in significant injury.

The study claims that fighting on skates isn't particularly dangerous, possibly because it's hard to get traction for a powerful punch on the ice, said co-author Dr. David Milzman, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

"They get a lot more injuries being checked into the boards, being hit from behind," he said.

Milzman went even further: "I've watched enough hockey that I can tell you clearly that if you take the release valve of fighting out of it, you'd have a lot more dirty playing, and probably more injuries would result from players not being able to blow off steam by fighting."

Professional hockey allows plenty of physical contact between players, from "checking" (skating into another player) to the routine fistfights that are part of the sport's appeal.

The NHL calls such fights -- when throwers discard their gloves and jab at each other -- fisticuffs. Critics say the fighting is dangerous, and in 1988 the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine called for fighting's elimination, saying it hurts players and is an "endemic and ritualized blot on the reputation of the North American game." But more than 20 years later, the fights continue.

In the new study, researchers analyzed videos of more than 1,200 preseason and regular hockey games from the NHL 2010-11 season. They watched 710 fights, taking notes about what happened, and analyzed what happened to the players who fought. To determine if fighting on skates was more or less hazardous than fighting on solid ground, they also looked at injuries sustained by non-hockey players treated for fights at emergency o
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