Objective: To determine the incidence and type of injuries in youth hockey players during practice and games as well as to test the applicability of the current methods to a national surveillance study of youth hockey injuries.
Design: During the 1993 to 1994 season, we undertook a prospective observational analysis of youth hockey players on four competitive teams at three levels of participation: Squirt, Peewee, and Bantam.
Material and methods: In a study group of 66 youth hockey players, types and anatomic sites of injury, mechanisms of injury, player position affected, and occurrence of injuries during practice or games were determined and analyzed statistically. An injury was strictly defined, standardized reporting strategies were used, and a single physician examined all injured athletes and made the diagnoses.
Results: A total of 14 injuries occurred during the season. The on-ice injury rate (per 1,000 player-hours) was 1.0 at the Squirt level (ages 9 and 10 years), 1.8 at the Peewee level (ages 11 and 12 years), and 4.3 at the Bantam level (ages 13 and 14 years). No game injuries and only one mild practice injury occurred in Squirt players (N = 16), and only two mild injuries occurred during practice sessions for Peewees (N = 17). No differences were noted between practice injury rates at the various levels; all recorded game injuries occurred only in Bantam players (N = 33). The most common types of injuries were contusions, fractures, strains, and sprains. The arm and shoulder were most frequently injured.
Conclusion: Further research is necessary to determine whether injuries in youth ice hockey can be reduced by changes in playing rules, enforcement of existing rules, improvements in protective equipment, alteration in coaching techniques, and institution of educational programs.