Hockey Body Checks Not So Hazardous

Rough contact causes only small fraction of injuries in young players, study finds

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THURSDAY, Nov. 3, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Hockey has long been a dangerous sport, but a new study shows that high-impact body checks cause fewer injuries to young players than accidental collisions or falling into the boards or onto the ice.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo tracked 2,630 boy hockey players over two seasons and found that 55 percent of injuries were caused by accidental collisions between players or falling into the boards or onto the ice. Legal body checks accounted for 12 percent of injuries, while illegal checks caused 17 percent of injuries.

Body checking has been blamed for many of the injuries suffered by young hockey players and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that body checking be prohibited until players are 16 years old.

The study found that introducing body checking into the game when players were nine years old did spike a sudden increase in injuries, although most of these injuries were minor. However, within one year, players adjusted to giving and receiving body checks and injure levels declined to previous levels, the researchers found.

Another steep rise in hockey injury rates occurred at about age 13. This is likely due to "increases in testosterone levels and concomitant aggressiveness," the study authors noted. Injury rates dropped again among 14-year-old players.

Study lead author Barry Willer, a professor of psychiatry and rehabilitation medicine and former hockey coach and player, said delaying the introduction of body checking to age 16 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 said in a prepared statement.

The findings appear in the current issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about preventing hockey injuries.

SOURCE: University of Buffalo, news release, Oct. 31, 2005

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