Researchers compared rates of injury between Alberta Pee Wee leagues (1,108 players), which allow bodychecking, and Quebec Leagues (1046 players), which don’t. The findings showed that Alberta Pee Wee players suffered 209 injuries compared to only 70 for Quebec players; the ratio was similar for other categories such as severe injury (73 – 20), concussion (73 – 20), and severe concussion (14 – 4).
“The public health impact is clear—if bodychecking were eliminated in Alberta Pee Wee, it is estimated that out of the 8,826 players registered, we could prevent over 1,000 game-related injuries per year and over 400 game-related concussions per year,” said Carolyn Emery, PhD, a sport epidemiologist and professor in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Faculty of Medicine.
My question for Ms. Emery and her fellow researchers would be how does the injury rate compare between Alberta and Quebec at the Bantam level (players aged 13 and 14)?
I don't disagree that bodychecking is not necessary at the Pee Wee level, but at some stage you need to introduce bodychecking into the game for youth. When that introduction of physicality occurs it is a pretty safe bet the injury rate will increase. Some questions that pop to my mind are:
- But does the injury rate for Alberta Bantam players normalize? They've already been introduced to physical play, and supposedly would have been coached how to hit properly and safely, and how to protect themselves.
- Does Quebec's Bantam injury rate mirror Alberta's Pee Wee rate?
- Is the public health impact lessened at all by introducing bodychecking to 13-14 year olds as opposed to 11-12 year olds? Or is it just delayed a year?
- Is it possible that there would be even more injuries when bodychecking is introduced at Bantam level because of the likely wider gap of height and size amongst players? I'm no medical expert, but I'm operating under the assumption that 11-12 year old boys tend to be of similar sizes, but really being growing at different rates at 13 and 14. If this is true, wouldn't it be safer to teach kids how to hit and how to protect yourself when they are all of similar size?
The research (done in collaboration with researchers from McGill University and Laval University) will be published in the June 9th edition of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.