Bodychecking experience does not protect against concussions and injuries, U of C study finds

A study from the University of Calgary’s Center for Sports Injury Prevention Research indicates that despite what one might believe – that greater bodychecking experience protects players against injuries and concussions – she discovered that the opposite was true.

The three-year research project found that 15- to 17-year-old hockey players with at least three years of body-checking experience had more than twice as many injuries and concussions as those with two or fewer years of body-checking experience. ‘experience.

“This is just further evidence supporting the removal of body checking in youth ice hockey to help prevent injuries,” said Paul Eliason, postdoctoral fellow at the Center for sports injury prevention research.

The U of C study was designed in partnership with Hockey Canada, Hockey Alberta and Hockey Calgary.

A spokesperson for Hockey Calgary said the organization wanted to know if its earlier decision to remove kicks in the under-13 age group left players at higher risk of injury as they climbed up and started to defeat.

« It’s a question that’s been asked all the time: by not checking at a younger age, don’t you learn it? » said Kevin Kobelka, general manager of Hockey Calgary.

« Studies show that we made the right decision and that children can learn to challenge their bodies at more advanced levels. »

Study Breakdown

The study was conducted between 2015-16 and 2017-18. It included 941 U-18 minor hockey players from the body-checking divisions of Calgary, Airdrie and Edmonton.

He compared players with three or more years of checking experience with players with two or less years of hitting experience.

And he looked at the rates of all types of injuries, injuries that resulted in more than seven days off the ice and concussions.

Ultimately, he found that players who had more control experience were injured or concussed at more than 2.5 times the rate of less experienced players. And the most common injury was a concussion – regardless of experience – accounting for more than a third of injuries.

The researchers also broke down the data by position played, weight, age and level of hockey played.

They found no noticeable difference in injuries or concussions based on player weight or position (i.e. attacker, defender or goalkeeper).

But he found that less skilled players were injured almost 1.5 times more often than the most skilled elite players who made up the top 20%.

And among 15-year-olds, the only age group they delved deeper into, they again found that those with more punching experience had bigger injuries.

« The conclusion always has to be that we’re just showing here that more experience isn’t protective, which is what the hockey community believes, » Eliason said.

Paul Eliason, a researcher at the University of Calgary, says his study shows that more bodychecking experience doesn’t protect players from injuries and concussions. (Louise Moquin/Radio-Canada)

Speed ​​and skill to blame?

The study recommends further research to understand the role played by behaviors such as aggression or factors such as speed and skill.

“The speeds of play and skill level in those age categories – we couldn’t capture that … and it could put them at higher risk of injury,” Eliason said.

George Conroy has been running control clinics in the Calgary area for 16 years.

He thinks those with more body experience injure themselves because they are likely to be more aggressive and capable of inflicting injury in a game.

And, he says, the skill range on lower-tier teams is often greater than on higher-tier teams, leaving some players at those lower tiers more vulnerable to injury.

« And now there are wolves among the sheep who can take full advantage of it, » Conroy said.

But Conroy says one way to help reduce injuries is to spend more time teaching and practicing good checking – a skill he believes is as important as shooting and stickhandling for the game.

“I’ve seen minor hockey associations give a two-hour course. That worries me. That doesn’t prepare anyone for hit hockey. It’s a huge skill with huge downsides that you have to prepare for, you have to train for, train for,” Conroy said.

No upcoming changes

Kobelka says Hockey Calgary has no plans to change its program based on this latest study.

He says they believe they have a good mix right now.

Verification begins at the U-15 level. But for those who don’t want to verify, there is also a non-verification option.

« We have gone to the level that we want to reach at this stage.

« We still have it at our elite levels in our higher tiers of our program. I think customers are looking for that. And players, to keep developing to get to higher levels, need that, » said said Kobelka.

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