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Banning bodychecking in youth hockey dramatically reduces injuries, study finds

Kinesiology research shows 64% reduction in concussion risk when Peewee players are disallowed from hitting
March 14, 2017
University of Calgary researchers present their findings on the effect of reducing bodychecking for youth in ice hockey to the IOC in Monaco this week.  Pixabay image by Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke, licensed under Creative Commons

University of Calgary researchers present their findings on the effect of reducing bodychecking for youth in ice hockey to the IOC in Monaco this week.  Pixabay image by Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke, licensed under Creative Commons

The Hockey Canada decision in 2013 to ban bodychecking nationally for 11- and 12-year-old ice-hockey players (Peewee), has had a significant impact in reducing injuries and concussions specifically, according to a study led by Carolyn Emery, researcher in the Faculty of Kinesiology, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The main findings include a 64-per-cent reduction in concussion risk and 50-per-cent reduction in all-injury risk. This translates to an estimated 581 concussions saved annually in Alberta and more than 4,800 concussions saved annually in Canadian Peewee players, says Amanda Black, a PhD candidate in the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology. Black had the opportunity to lead this manuscript preparation and will be presenting the findings this week at the International Olympic Committee World Conference on Prevention of Injury and Illness in Sport in Monaco.

Policy change has positive health impact

“Congratulations to Hockey Canada for considering the evidence to inform this policy change that has had a significant public health impact in young players,” says Emery, professor and chair of the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre. “This isn’t the end; there is a lot more research to be done on this topic.” 

The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary is one of nine IOC Centres of Excellence in Injury and Illness Prevention in Sport in the world, and the only such centre in the Americas.

Study involved collaboration with provincial, Canadian hockey associations 

This study highlights a decade of research in injury and concussion prevention in youth ice hockey and strong community partnerships with Hockey Calgary and Hockey Canada. Researchers continue to collaborate with Hockey Canada, Hockey Calgary and Hockey Edmonton on a large program of research in concussion prevention — which includes helmet fit, equipment, and other prevention strategies including education, management, and rehabilitation.

The evaluation of policy disallowing bodychecking in non-elite levels of Bantam and Midget (ages 13-17) is ongoing in collaboration also with Hockey B.C. In addition, researchers are using video analysis to evaluate the impact of such policy change on player contact behaviours and on-ice performance in games.

“Future research will also evaluate the economic impact of such policy changes in youth ice hockey,” says Emery. “This research will inform future concussion and injury prevention research projects in other community sports, for example soccer, and school physical education programs.” 

This study was funded by Alberta Innovates Health Solutions, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

UCalgary authors 

The University of Calgary authors of this British Journal of Sports Medicine article are Amanda M. Black, Brent E. Hagel, Luz Palacios-Derflingher, Kathryn J. Schneider and Carolyn A. Emery. Their affiliations include Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of Kinesiology; Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Cumming School of Medicine; Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute, Cumming School of Medicine; O’Brien Institute for Public Health, Cumming School of Medicine; Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine; and Department of Pediatrics, Cumming School of Medicine.