Context: Ice hockey is a high-speed, full-contact sport with a high risk of head/face/neck (HFN) injuries. However, men's and women's ice hockey differ; checking is allowed only among men.
Objectives: To describe the epidemiology of HFN injuries in collegiate men's and women's ice hockey during the 2009-2010 through 2013-2014 academic years.
Design: Descriptive epidemiology study.
Setting: Ice hockey data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Injury Surveillance Program during the 2009-2010 through 2013-2014 academic years.
Patients or other participants: Fifty-seven men's and 26 women's collegiate ice hockey programs from all NCAA divisions provided 106 and 51 team-seasons of data, respectively.
Main outcome measure(s): Injury rates per 1000 athlete-exposures and rate ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
Results: The NCAA Injury Surveillance Program reported 496 and 131 HFN injuries in men's and women's ice hockey, respectively. The HFN injury rate was higher in men than in women (1.75 versus 1.16/1000 athlete-exposures; incidence rate ratio = 1.51; 95% CI = 1.25, 1.84). The proportion of HFN injuries from checking was higher in men than in women for competitions (38.5% versus 13.6%; injury proportion ratio = 2.82; 95% CI = 1.64, 4.85) and practices (21.9% versus 2.3%; injury proportion ratio = 9.41; 95% CI = 1.31, 67.69). The most common HFN injury diagnosis was concussion; most concussions occurred in men's competitions from player contact while checking (25.9%). Player contact during general play comprised the largest proportion of concussions in men's practices (25.9%), women's competitions (25.0%), and women's practices (24.0%). While 166 lacerations were reported in men, none were reported in women. In men, most lacerations occurred from player contact during checking in competitions (41.8%) and player contact during general play in practices (15.0%).
Conclusions: A larger proportion of HFN injuries in ice hockey occurred during checking in men versus women. Concussion was the most common HFN injury and was most often due to player contact. Lacerations were reported only among men and were mostly due to checking. Injury-prevention programs should aim to reduce checking-related injuries.
Keywords: concussions; lacerations; sex disparities.