Hockey Injuries Checked Out

Injuries and penalties among hockey players decreased with safety interventions

(RxWiki News) There's a reason why you don't see as many body slams into the glass at hockey games these days. Programs designed to make hockey safer and less violent are doing their job, new research has found.

Penalties have gone down by as much as six times per game, with injuries down as much as 12 times on average.

Researchers said these intervening programs "had positive effects on reducing aggressive acts."

"Play hard, but be safe."

In particular, kids in junior leagues were getting hit on the head and spinal cord seven times as much during the 2009-2010 season compared to a decade before. Various programs and efforts have been put in place to keep the number of injuries low.

Researchers, led by Michael Cusimano, MD, PhD, looked at how well these programs actually decreased the number of injuries. They looked at 18 previous studies written through July 2012 that evaluated the interventions and rated aggressive behavior among the players.

Most of the studies were conducted in Canada with one in the US and another occurring in both countries. The included studies also tracked the number of injuries and penalties, and most involved minor leagues with players ranging between 9 and 16 years of age. Thirteen of the studies looked at how changes in the rules helped lower aggressive behavior. Such rules state body checking is not allowed.

A few of the studies looked at how the Fair Play Program affected the number of injuries among players and their behavior. The program rewards sportsmanship and gives points to teams that have the lowest number of penalties per game at the end of the season.

Eleven of these studies reported there were one to six fewer penalties on average per game. Injuries also went down between three- and 12-fold with these rule changes.

The number of concussions and fractures, the most common injuries, increased if checking was allowed within a match. As Fair Play progressed through the four seasons studied, more points were rewarded for Fair Play.

“We found interventions based on rule changes showed the greatest likelihood of making ice hockey safer for youth,” Dr. Cusimano said in a press release.

Three studies focused on educating the hockey community and the number of penalties overall went down in all these studies. They did not affect the number of injuries.

The last two studies that focused on awareness and cognitive behavior saw reductions in aggressive actions as well. The authors note that because the studies they looked at weren't done at random and measured different things, the variability may affect their results. In addition, the interventions they studied were solely from North America and don't take their cost effectiveness or other incentives in account.

The study was published online December 3 in Canadian Medical Association Journal. The authors do not declare any conflicts of interest. Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation funded the study. 

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Review Date: 
December 1, 2012