Background Policy disallowing body checking in youth ice hockey significantly reduces the risk of injury and concussion. Based on video analysis, frequency and intensity of player to player physical contacts (PCs) are higher in Pee Wee players (ages 11–12) in leagues allowing body checking, however this has not been examined in Bantam leagues (ages 13–14).
Objective To determine the association between body checking policy and the frequency and intensity of physical contacts in Bantam ice hockey players (ages 13–14).
Design Cohort study.
Setting Ice hockey arenas.
Participants Thirteen non-elite (lowest 60% by division of play) Bantam ice hockey games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (2014–15 season) and 13 non-elite games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (2014–15 season) were videotaped.
Intervention Policy allowed body checking in Calgary and not Vancouver in the non-elite levels (2014–15).
Main Outcome Measurements Incidence rate ratios [IRRs] (adjusted for player position) were estimated using multiple Poisson regression to examine the effect of body checking policy on player-to-player PCs [levels 1–5 with increasing intensity (levels correspond to 4–5 body checking)] and hooking/slashing behaviours.
Results Lower rates of higher intensity contacts (levels 4–5 body checking) were observed in Bantam ice hockey players in a league where body checking was disallowed [IRR=0.09; 95% CI: 0.05–0.15]. Players in a league where body checking was disallowed, however, had significantly higher rates of hooking and slashing behaviours [IRR=1.81; 95% CI: 1.33–2.47].
Conclusions Bantam ice hockey players in a league where policy disallowed body checking are at a lower risk of high intensity physical contacts, but commit higher rates of hooking and slashing behaviours. This research informs the mechanisms explaining injury risk reduction related to body checking policy change and have important national public health implications for policy decisions related to rule enforcement in youth sport.