In this study we explored the effects of the 2002 rule change in Ontario minor hockey, in which body-checking was introduced at the atom (ages 9–10) instead of the peewee (previously ages 12–13) age level. It was hypothesized that the introduction of body-checking at younger ages would result in higher overall rates of injury to minor hockey players, with concomitant increases in neurotraumatic injuries.
Participants included injured minor hockey players between the ages of 7 and 14 years in the Kingston area of Ontario, Canada. The Kingston sites of the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program were used to identify injuries that presented to the only 2 emergency departments in this community. In our analyses, we compared rates and patterns of injury that required hospital-based emergency medicine care before (1997–1998 to 2001–2002 seasons) and after (2002–2003 to 2006–2007 seasons) implementation of the body-checking rule change.
Overall rates of injury to minor hockey players declined in the years after the rule change. Rates of injury attributable to body-checking, as well as the natures and anatomic sites of injury caused by body-checking, remained consistent in the 2 study periods.
In this historical study, we did not observe an increase in the overall rates of injury and concomitant neurotraumatic events. Increased enforcement of playing rules as well as temporal declines in emergency department use may have contributed to these findings.