“Disappointing but not surprising:” Head injuries in youth ice hockey often involve illegal contact

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MILWAUKEE -- Concussions are a risk that comes with contact sports -- that is common knowledge. But a new study finds when it comes to ice hockey, nearly half of those head injuries are coming from hits that aren't support to be happening at all.

The study, recently published in Pediatrics, found more than 40 percent of concussions in youth ice hockey players involved illegal contact.

Ice hockey

"It's disappointing, but not surprising," said Dr. Kevin Walter, program director for pediatric and adolescent sports medicine at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. "With hockey, it's checking from behind, hitting someone in the neck and there's a reason that those activities are illegal because they're more likely to cause injuries."

The study also found younger players suffered more concussions than their older counterparts.

"You can make the argument that you should delay contact in sports, which I think is a solid one," said Dr. Walter.

Dr. Kevin Walter

Dr. Kevin Walter

But as Dr. Walter points out, the tricky part is that all kids mature at different rates.

"You're going to have bigger kids, you're going to have littler kids, and you've just got to try and balance that. So I don't think science is at the point where we can say here's the age for contact," Dr. Walter explained.

Dr. Walter does think better training, educational awareness and playing within the rules can make the game safer -- and will help lower the number of concussions. Those are goals WIAA officials say they are already pursuing.

Dr. Kevin Walter

Dr. Kevin Walter

"Our word to officials has always been always penalize players to the fullest extent of the penalty," said Tom Shafranski, WIAA assistant director.

The WIAA also keeps a list of players who get game disqualifications for inappropriate conduct -- and follows up with their schools.

"To develop a plan of action as to how they're going to prevent any future situations like this from taking place," said Shafranski.

FOX6 News asked if the WIAA was looking at making the boys' game more like the girls' game -- and getting rid of checking altogether. We were told it doesn't believe that is a needed step at this point.

Ice hockey

1 Comment

  • Christine Redding

    I have been a hockey Mom for 19 years now and I believe that this problem has gotten worse since they removed checking at the PeeWee level. Bantam age kids do NOT know how to check properly. We now have kids that are first learning how to make contact at an age the is two years older, two years physically bigger, two years with more hormones and macho (for some)….it has become frightening. As a veteran hockey Mom, I can spot a child with poor checking form and technique immediately during a game. Some illegal hits are obviously not intentional. Some are and those kids need to be dealt with firmly but most just need to learn how to make the hit.

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