Introducing young hockey players to body checking at an early age does not protect them from injury as they play in older, hard-hitting leagues, a new study has found.
In fact, the opposite may be true, said Paul Eliason of the University of Calgary, lead author of a new article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
“More bodychecking experience doesn’t protect against injuries and concussions,” he said. “Injury and concussion rates were actually higher among those with more body checking experience. »
The study, conducted in collaboration with Hockey Canada and the Edmonton and Calgary hockey organizations, was conducted in response to decisions by most minor hockey associations in Canada to ban body checking until players reach the age of 15. injuries, as players at this level should be forced to deal with physical contact without having learned how to take a hit in the lower leagues.
Eliason and his colleagues looked at data from thousands of quarterbacks played by hundreds of Connor McDavids and Sidney Crosbys prospects at rinks in towns and cities.
The team has compiled information from 941 players, some of whom have participated for more than one season. The data includes both boys and girls, but not girls-only leagues, where bodychecking is not allowed.
They compared the injuries suffered by young players aged 15 to 17 with little checking experience and those with at least three years. The differences were stark.
Children at this level who were experienced body controllers suffered injuries at a rate more than 2.5 times that of non-controllers.
Serious injury rates were even higher. Crashes that kept children out of play for at least seven days or left them concussed were 2.7 times more likely among those who had played in contact leagues.
The results were consistent for attackers and defenders. The size of the player makes little difference.
“We were a little surprised that (the rates) were so much higher than those with the least bodychecking experience,” Eliason said.
Eliason said some of that difference could be the result of higher speeds and skill levels for those players.
“That wouldn’t be fully appreciated by the levels of play in our analysis. »
But he said the injury rates were too different to have been entirely created by those factors.
“The conclusion must be that the experience of bodychecking is not protective,” Eliason said.
Hockey culture has changed since the first research on kids and bodychecking was published about a decade ago, Eliason said.
“Ten years ago it was almost blasphemous to say that. »
But he said his research has been welcomed by Hockey Canada, Hockey Calgary, the Airdrie Minor Hockey Association and Hockey Edmonton, all of whom have seen the results. Eliason said the research shows the groups made the right call by banning full contact for younger players.
“It is important to continue to show the research. That’s why the hockey communities have been so eager to partner with this research, to show that their decisions are right and that they are making evidence-based decisions that demonstrate the safety of the game.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 20, 2022.