As of September 2013 there will be no more body-checking in Canadian PeeWee hockey (under 13 age division). The ever present debate regarding at what age body-checking should be introduced into minor hockey came to the forefront this past weekend, as Hockey Canada’s Board of Directors voted almost unanimously to ban body-checking at the PeeWee level. The Canadian sport medicine community has largely supported this decision and the Canadian Pediatric Society has come out to say that, “this evidence-based decision puts brain safety first and will enhance player development by focusing on fundamental skills, fun and lifetime fitness.”
Sport Physiotherapist and SportMedBC Board Member Marc Rizzardo, has worked with numerous youth hockey players as well as a number of NHL hockey players throughout his career and commends Hockey Canada’s latest ruling on body-checking.
“In a lot of aspects it is a good move considering all the recent literature on head injuries. The new rule will allow players to develop in two areas that will help cut down the number of injuries. First the players will be much stronger when hitting is introduced so they will be able to withstand the hit better because they will be stronger on their skates, have better balance and have overall stronger musculature. Secondly, the extra two years will allow them to enhance their ability to see the ice better and they are less likely to get hit with their heads down. Overall a good decision by the Hockey Canada Executive.”
Hockey Canada’s decision was supported by recent Alberta research that PeeWee hockey players incurred 3-times more injuries than those players in the Quebec PeeWee hockey league who did not engage in body-checking until the Bantam age division. Alberta researcher and co-chair of the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary, Carolyn Emery, PhD, projects that this ban will prevent, “over 5,000 injuries and 1,500 concussions” across Canada within the 2013-2014 PeeWee hockey season alone. Additionally, Emery’s study found that the difference in injury rates amongst Bantam hockey players who began to hit in the PeeWee versus Bantam divisions were negligible. This finding helps strengthen the notion that learning to body-check at a younger age doesn’t provide a protective effect by allowing young athletes to “learn how to take a hit” as some previously thought.
The decision by Hockey Canada to ban body-checking at the PeeWee level comes with the associated dedication by Hockey Canada to form a work group to develop a mandatory “national checking and instructional resource program to support the progressive implementation of checking skills at the Novice to PeeWee levels to better prepare players for body-checking at the Bantam and Midget level.”
To read more about the research conducted at the University of Calgary.