By Mary MacVean
7:30 AM CST, December 4, 2012
Changing the rules -- more than educational or other strategies -- has the best chance of making kids' hockey a safer sport, researchers said.
"Rule changes essentially alter the culture of a sport and clearly define acceptable behavior for” players, parents, coaches and officials, the researchers wrote in an article published Monday in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal.
The article cited a study showing that the 2009-10 season saw an incidence of game-related concussions that was seven times higher than that in 1998-99. Brain injuries frequently result from aggressive body checks, accounting for 15% of the injuries among players 9 to 16 years old, the researchers said.
The researchers looked at how rule changes, education and behavior-modification strategies changed the incidence of aggression and violence. They searched databases and found 18 relevant studies, mostly about youth hockey.
Of 13 studies that looked at rule changes intended to reduce aggression, mostly restricting body-checking, 11 observed a reduction in penalties or injury rates. The three studies of an education program showed a reduction in penalties but those didn't look at injuries. Both studies that looked at behavior change showed reductions in aggressive behavior.
One effort was the Fair Play Program, in which points awarded for sportsmanship are part of the tally for final standings. That program, three studies showed, led to an overall decrease in the number or severity of penalties. The researchers said studies showed more penalties in games that allowed body checking, a term for the use of the body to block the player with the puck.
The researchers said studies are needed of multifaceted strategies.