AAP Statement on Safety in Youth Ice Hockey

Author: Monica Preboth
Date: Oct 1, 2000

According to the Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), approximately 200,000 children in the United States play ice hockey. The AAP has classified ice hockey as a collision sport because of the intentional body contact, called checking, that occurs. Because body checking can occur at high speeds, the AAP warns that participants are at risk for serious injury. In response, the AAP committee has issued a statement on safety and the effects of body checking in youth ice hockey. The AAP policy statement appears in the March 2000 issue of Pediatrics.

The AAP committee cites recent studies of youth hockey that show high-speed collisions, size disparities within age groups and a false sense of security from the use of protective equipment have all contributed to an increase in checking-related injuries.

In the statement, the AAP committee discusses a concept called fair-play that was created for improved sportsmanship and reduction of injuries in youth hockey. The concept is used in scoring ice hockey games to reward teams and individual players with few penalties and punish teams and players with larger numbers of penalties. The potential benefits of the fair-play concept were compared with use of regular rules in a recent study of a youth hockey tournament. The participants were all younger than 20 years. The researchers found that the injury rate was four times higher during the portion of the tournament when regular rules were used, compared with the injury rate during the portion of the tournament when the fair-play concept was in place.

To enhance safety among participants in youth ice hockey, the AAP committee makes the following recommendations:

* Body checking in youth hockey should not be allowed for children 15 years or younger.

* Programs that promote good sportsmanship, such as the fair-play concept, have been shown to reduce injury and penalty rates and should be adopted for all levels of youth hockey.

* Youth hockey players, parents and coaches should be educated about the importance of knowing and following the rules, as well as the dangers of body checking another player from behind.

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