Background: Examinations related to divisional differences in the incidence of sports-related concussions (SRC) in collegiate ice hockey are limited.
Purpose: To compare the epidemiologic patterns of concussion in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ice hockey by sex and division.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.
Methods: A convenience sample of men's and women's ice hockey teams in Divisions I and III provided SRC data via the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program during the 2009-2010 to 2014-2015 academic years. Concussion counts, rates, and distributions were examined by factors including injury activity and position. Injury rate ratios (IRRs) and injury proportion ratios (IPRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used to compare concussion rates and distributions, respectively.
Results: Overall, 415 concussions were reported for men's and women's ice hockey combined. The highest concussion rate was found in Division I men (0.83 per 1000 athlete-exposures [AEs]), followed by Division III women (0.78/1000 AEs), Division I women (0.65/1000 AEs), and Division III men (0.64/1000 AEs). However, the only significant IRR was that the concussion rate was higher in Division I men than Division III men (IRR = 1.29; 95% CI, 1.02-1.65). The proportion of concussions from checking was higher in men than women (28.5% vs 9.4%; IPR = 3.02; 95% CI, 1.63-5.59); however, this proportion was higher in Division I women than Division III women (18.4% vs 1.8%; IPR = 10.47; 95% CI, 1.37-79.75). The proportion of concussions sustained by goalkeepers was higher in women than men (14.2% vs 2.9%; IPR = 4.86; 95% CI, 2.19-10.77), with findings consistent within each division.
Conclusion: Concussion rates did not vary by sex but differed by division among men. Checking-related concussions were less common in women than men overall but more common in Division I women than Division III women. Findings highlight the need to better understand the reasons underlying divisional differences within men's and women's ice hockey and the need to develop concussion prevention strategies specific to each athlete population.
Keywords: NCAA; collegiate athletics; concussions; division differences; ice hockey.