Objective: To determine if collision rates and head impacts in elite junior hockey differed between games played on the small North American ice surface (85 ft wide), an intermediate-size Finnish ice surface (94 ft wide), and the large standard international ice surface (100 ft wide).
Design: Videotape analysis of all games involving Team Canada from the 2002 (large ice, Czech Republic), 2003 (small ice, Canada), and 2004 (intermediate ice, Finland) World Junior Championships. All collisions were counted and separated into various categories (volitional player/player bodychecks, into boards or open ice, plus accidental/incidental player/boards, player/ice, head/stick, head/puck). Further subdivisions included collisions involving the head directly or indirectly and notably severe head impacts.
Results: Small, intermediate, and large ice surface mean collisions/game, respectively, were 295, 258, 222, total collisions; 251, 220, 181, volitional bodychecks; 126, 115, 88, into boards; 125, 106, 93, open ice; 71, 52, 44, total head; 44, 36, 30, indirect head; 26, 16, 13, direct head; and 1.3, 0.5, 0.3, severe head (P < 0.05 for small-intermediate ice and intermediate-large ice differences in total collisions; P < 0.005 for small-large ice difference; P < 0.05 for small-intermediate ice differences in head impacts; P < 0.01 for small-large ice differences in total and severe head impacts).
Conclusions: There is a significant inverse correlation between ice size and collision rates in elite hockey, including direct, indirect, and severe head impacts. These findings suggest that uniform usage of the larger international rinks could reduce the risk of injury, and specifically, concussions in elite hockey by decreasing the occurrence of collisions and head impacts.