TORONTO - Rules that restrict body checking can significantly reduce hockey injuries like concussions and make the game safer for young players, a study says.
Toronto researchers reviewed 18 studies that evaluated ways to cut aggression-related injuries, of which 13 looked at mandatory rule changes in minor hockey in Canada and the U.S.
Eleven of those found rule changes resulted in between one and six fewer penalties per game, and three to 12 times fewer injuries.
Principal researcher Dr. Michael Cusimano says rule changes combined with educational programs and incentives that reward sportsmanship could reduce hockey injuries.
The neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital says brain injuries like concussion often result from aggressive body checking and account for 15 per cent of all injuries to players aged nine to 16.
The study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal says up to one-quarter of players sustain concussions in a single season.
"Given that brain injuries are so common and that they can have permanent effects, we need to introduce measures that we know have been shown to work to reduce the numbers of children and youth suffering these injuries in sport," Cusimano says.
"Rule changes essentially alter the culture of a sport and clearly define acceptable behaviour for players, coaches, parents and officials," he says.