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When should body contact start in hockey?

TAKE POLL for when body contact should start in hockey.

Last week many of you reacted to a post about a study conducted by Dr. Carolyn Emery and colleagues out of the University of Calgary. In a nutshell, the study demonstrated that,

“Among 11- to 12 year old ice hockey players, playing in a league in which body checking is permitted compared with playing in a league in which body checking is not permitted was associated with a 3-fold increased risk of all game related injuries and the categories of concussion, severe injury, and severe concussion.” (p. 2265).

The study compared the rate of injury for peewee age playes in Alberta, where body contact is introduced at the peewee level, to Quebec, where body contact does not begin until the bantam level.  Not surprisingly perhaps, there were more injuries in Alberta when there was body contact. Smaller smaller player size was also a risk for all injuries.

A question was posted on facebook asking if you had children in body contact hockey and how you felt about it. Many of you provided heartfelt responses about your concerns with body contact and your fears for your children. We talked about how to prevent injury, and many of you suggested that introducing body contact as soon as children started playing would teach players to both properly give, and receive, a hit. Others suggested that body contact is not required in hockey, and that it should never be introduced. Some of you suggested that injuries occur because players are not taught to keep their heads up. Still others voiced concerns over the lack of technical support or instruction provided to coaches about how to teach children to give and receive a hit, and that coaches provide to their players.

I’ve had a chance to read the original article that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and after thinking about your comments, I’m still left with a number of questions.

–          Does introducing body contact earlier into hockey earlier reduce the risk of injury by teaching proper technique?

–          When the next phase of the study comes out, comparing injuries to players in bantam in Quebec (where they will be in their first year of body contact) and Alberta (where they will have played body contact since peewee) demonstrate that injury rates are increased or decreased by the later introduction of body contact?

–          What is an “acceptable” level of injury in sport?

In personal correspondence with Dr. Emery, I’ve learned that so far, there is no evidence to suggest that earlier introduction of body contact reduces injury, and also that the results of the study on Bantam age players is due for release this summer.

But I want to hear what you think. Take a moment to complete this short survey about body contact. Consider it the “Poll of Hockey Moms and Their Thoughts on Body Contact in Hockey”. You can also email us at

TAKE POLL for when body contact should start in hockey.

Original article:

Emery, C.A, Kang, J., Shrier, I., Gouley, C., Hagel, B.E., Nettel-Aguirre, Al, McAllister, J.R., Hamilton, G.M.,  & Meeuwisse, W.H. (2010). Risk of injury associated with body checking among youth ice hockey players. Journal of the American Medical Association, 303(22), 2265-2272.

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