It doesn’t matter if it’s youth hockey, adult league hockey, or full-on professional hockey. No matter how you slice it, hockey can be a dangerous sport. It’s particularly dangerous for young players, however, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is speaking up. The Academy recently released a professional recommendation that the practice of “body checking” should be fully removed from the youngest youth hockey leagues and only allowed for male players ages 15 and up.
The Academy reports that, via its findings, body checking leads to an increased risk of injury for all young players. “Body checking,” for those not in the know, is defined as one player hitting another in an effort to separate the opposing player from the puck.
USA Hockey was already aware of some of the issues with body checking. In fact, in 2011, it changed the minimum body checking age from 11 to 13. And, though suggestions have been made in the past as to further increasing the legal body checking age, many are speculating that USA Hockey will listen this time around. The American Academy of Pediatrics is a highly respected organization, first of all, and second of all, more evidence is coming out to support its findings.
In addition to the risk of just general injury, recent studies have found that body checking in youth hockey also increases the risk of serious or potentially deadly injuries, concussions, and brain damage. With those kinds of risks, it’s a wonder that organizations aren’t banning checking outright. But its well understood, hockey is a great sport and should be played with a focus on making it as safe as possible.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests stronger punishments for athletes who purposefully hit another person’s head or intentionally hit another player from behind, other actions the organization says are likely to lead to serious injuries. USA Hockey agrees and has implemented more stringent rules as well as more stringent penalties.
It’s not just this one organization that has found problems with youth hockey. A recent research study found that a Minnesota trauma center could blame 38% of the serious childhood injuries it saw on body checking or fighting.
Lets keep our beloved sport safe, teach our children young and continuously the right way to check.