Ice hockey is quickly gaining popularity among children and adolescents in the United States, but as a result, the number of dangerous injuries and
concussions are also on the rise.
To help children enjoy the sport while protecting player safety, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated the policy statement, "Reducing Injury Risk From Body Checking in Boys' Youth Ice Hockey," published in the June 2014 Pediatrics (posted online May 26).
According to USA Hockey, more than 350,000 youth (305,000 boys, 50,000 girls) under 19 years of age participated in hockey programs in 2011-2012. Boys who play ice hockey in leagues that allow
body checking (body checking is not allowed at any level in girls' or women's ice hockey), are two to three times more likely to suffer severe injuries and concussions compared to boys in non-checking leagues. Every year, an average of 12,590 players under age 19 seek treatment in the
emergency department for ice hockey injuries. The yearly estimated incidence of injuries among 9- to 14-year-olds increased by 163 percent from 1990 to 2006. Concussions are common in youth ice hockey, with a higher risk of concussion in age groups that allow body checking.
The AAP recommends expanding nonchecking ice hockey programs for boys 15 years and older, and restricting body checking to the highest competition levels starting no earlier than age 15. Coaches are encouraged to follow zero-tolerance rules against any contact to the head, intentional or not. Rules preventing body contact from behind, into or near the boards should also be reinforced. The AAP encourages pediatricians to advocate for safer youth hockey programs which can help promote ice hockey as a lifelong recreational activity.
Editor's Note: an unrelated study, Youth Ice Hockey Injuries Over 16 Years at a Pediatric Trauma Center," will also be published on Monday, May 26, 2014.