Should bodychecking in youth hockey be banned?
April 18th, 2011
04:21 PM ET

Should bodychecking in youth hockey be banned?

When you consider that only about one in 4,000 youth hockey players will ever make it to the professional ranks, does putting the 3,999 other bodies – and specifically, heads – at risk by allowing bodychecking make sense? That provocative question is raised in an analysis published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Taking the bodychecking - impeding the movement of an opponent with your body - out of hockey is akin to taking tackling out of football. It provokes the ire of sports purists, who might argue that you rob the sport of what makes it essentially hockey or football. But the bodychecking argument – specifically, banning it among all but elite hockey players aged 16 or older, according to the analysis – is rooted in emerging science about how concussion affects the youth brain, compared with the adult brain.

“The pediatric population is known to be more vulnerable to concussion and to experience more serious short- and long-term symptoms of concussion than adults,” according to L. Syd M. Johnson, author of the analysis. “Subtle cognitive deficits may persist for up to a year in some youths.”

Concussion has been a problem plaguing all levels of hockey for years. A new study looking at concussion among National Hockey League players between 1997-2004 found that players suffered about 1.8 concussions per 1,000 hours playing, resulting in significant loss of playing time. That loss more than doubled when a subsequent concussion occurred, according to the study, also published Monday in the CMAJ.

But the adult concussion problem pales in comparison to concussion at the youth level, where developing brains are more susceptible to concussion-related damage. According to one study, concussion could affect as many as 25% of youth hockey players.

Underlying all those concussions, according to Johnson, is bodychecking. In some Canadian leagues, bodychecking is introduced as early as age nine.

The argument made for checking is for players becoming versed in all aspects of the game; bodychecking taught properly, say adherents, does not have to lead to injury.

“Several studies have confirmed, however, that injury rates rise dramatically when bodychecking is introduced,” according to Johnson’s analysis. “Players typically sustain their first concussion within a year of starting bodychecking and that education in ‘proper’ bodychecking technique does not reduce rates of injury.”

The author adds that bodychecking draws attention away from skill-building exercises such as stick and puck-handling, shooting, and others.

“It’s time to break that cycle and teach youths skills to play in a way that emphasizes skill and protects their brains,” said Johnson. “There are a lot of kids who want to be the next Sydney Crosby, but they ought to be able to play the sport they love without being the next hockey player with a concussion.”

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. SW

    “There are a lot of kids who want to be the next Sydney Crosby, but they ought to be able to play the sport they love without being the next hockey player with a concussion.” – Johnson, quote from article.

    Is it the sport they love without bodychecking? People and the nanny state of our current society take these things too far. As a child I played and played contact. But the relevance here is that I played contact sports whether organized or just getting together with friends. As children we wrestled, we fought, we played sports that had contact, some got hurt.

    You people take all the fun out of being a kid. Kids are going to play rough like they see their idols doing when watching the big leagues. If not in an organized league, then on their own. Lets stop encompassing ourselves in ever more bubbles of protection.

    Otherwise, lets just ban driving and all travel while we are at it. Yeah sure, throw walking in there or at the very least running, lots of kids fall down when they run (maybe we should ban track). If we can't move around then no one will ever get injured. Now that's a great idea.

    April 18, 2011 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Steve

    Good lord, what the hell is wrong with people these days? I played hockey for 10 years from a child through high school, and I certainly don't think checking was in any way dangerous. In most cases you don't even feel anything. I've seen far more injuries from skate blades, twisted ankles, and above all.. puck injuries. Maybe we should use foam pucks. If you're to much a coward to play the game as it is ... STAY OFF THE ICE.

    April 20, 2011 at 02:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kyle

      ur so right!!!!!!!!!!

      May 23, 2012 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
  3. Hockey Mom

    Having watched my son play hockey for 9 years with very physical contact and substaning one concussion I do believe body checking needs to be reviewed. I don't believe the every day Joe understands the consequences that occur when a person substains an concussion and the impact it can have on an individual months and years later. My son's personality changed after he got hit (he was not the same). He played the tough guy and continued to play because hockey was his life but there were problems that arose from the hit. Once you get your head smashed into the boards along with your helmet caved in you think twice about was it all worth it. Unless who have been effected by a concussion you have no idea of the reprecussions you have to deal with. I love watching hockey but feel more invesigation needs to be done on this topic to fullt understand the impact on kids.

    April 20, 2011 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. David

    I'm just thinking about the possible mental health side effects. There are some definitive disorders that can develop as a result of brain injury via concussion.

    Another point to factor in is that no matter how much you try and prevent injury, it is still going to happen. In the end, I wonder if it's an issue like smoking. People do it knowing full well what the possible consequences are to their body, but have the right to choose to do so. No real easy answer here.


    April 25, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Fernando Muro

    I was looking in CNN news program this mornnig a Warning with medicine "Paxil."
    Could you send this information by e-mail.
    Best Regards
    Fernando Muro

    April 26, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. jake


    September 30, 2013 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply

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