Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) in the cervical or thoracic region is one of the most catastrophic types of sport injuries. This study was designed to determine incidence and mechanisms of major SCI in ice hockey in Finland and Sweden from 1980 to 1996 in order to find possibilities for prevention. Retrospective analysis of injury occurrence were carried out. Medical case records were reviewed and injured players were interviewed to complete the data. From 1980 to 1996, there were 16 accidents involving spinal cord injury with permanent disability. All players were male. The mean age was 21.1 years (range = 14 to 33 yr). In 50% of the cases the mechanism was body checking from behind and a blow to the head from the boards. In 69% of the cases the vertebral injury was fracture or/and luxation between C5 and C7. The neurological endstate was tetraplegia/paresis in 10 cases and paraplegia/paresis of the lower extremities in 6 cases. Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in Europe, and the number of participants is still increasing. The typical mechanism in SCI is body checking from behind, falling down and a head-first blow from the boards. These serious injuries may be prevented by changing the rules (banning body checking near the boards) with strict refereeing and education of trainers and players.