BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Hockey fans likely would assume that body-checking -- intentionally slamming an opponent against the boards -- causes the most injuries in youth ice hockey. But they would be wrong.
Findings from a new study, the largest and most comprehensive analysis to date of young hockey players, show that 66 percent of overall injuries were caused by accidentally hitting the boards or goal posts, colliding with teammates or being hit by a puck.
Only 34 percent of the injuries were caused by checking. Moreover, the accidental injuries were more severe than those from body checks.
These results, which appeared in June issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, were a surprise to many, including the researchers at the University at Buffalo who conducted the five-year study.
"There is an image of body checking as a form of violence that is condoned by the game of hockey," says Barry Willer, PhD, UB professor of psychiatry and rehabilitation sciences and senior author on the study.
"However, this study found that body checking did not account for a large proportion of injuries. Perhaps as important, body checking did not lead to a rise in intentional injuries."
Burlington, Ontario's, youth ice hockey program was the base of the study. The researchers compared injury rates overall for the three levels of competition: "house leagues," where there is no body checking; "select," in which checking is allowed at age 11 and older; and "representative," for the most skilled players, which allows checking in all divisions at age nine and above.
They also examined injury rates as level of competition and players' age increased, and how injury rates varied in games versus practices. The data covered 3,000 boys ages four to 18 for a total of 13,292 player years. Only injuries that kept a player off the ice for at least 24 hours were included.
Their analysis of the data shows that there were three times more accid
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University at Buffalo