Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine injury rates in a youth ice hockey program over two seasons (2002-2004). Injury rates for age groups (4-18 yr) and for different levels of competition were compared. Another purpose was to determine the effect of body checking on injury rates among these youths.
Methods: A prospective injury report form was completed by a volunteer trainer for each injury that caused a loss of player time and resulted in evaluation by a physician. The injury form documented age group, type of injury, length of time that the player missed action due to the injury, location of the injury, and circumstances that led to the injury. Participants included 2632 boys aged 4-18 who played in the 2002-2003 season and 2639 boys who played in the 2003-2004 season.
Results: Injuries were four times more likely to occur in games than practices. Boys who played in the most advanced levels of competition are 6.1 times more likely to be injured than boys playing in house leagues. Injury rates during games showed a trend toward increasing with the age of the player. Injury rates spiked the first year that body checking was introduced in two different competition levels. Injury rates also spiked with the onset of adolescence (age 13).
Conclusion: The study findings suggest that the introduction of body checking at age 9 to competitive youth hockey causes an immediate but relatively short-term increase in injury rates. The period of adjustment that accompanies body checking should be taken into account when determining the age at which body checking is introduced.