Hockey-injuries.jpgA new study reveals a decline in the number of spinal injuries in ice hockey among adults and children in Canada.

The findings, published online today in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, show that spinal injuries have decreased by 69.0 percent decrease since 2001 in the group 18 years old and older.

An examination of trends in the game indicate that the decline in spinal injuries may be due to a number of factors, including rule changes and enforcement as well as better awareness and prevention programs.

"Understanding the correlation between rules, regulations, prevention strategies and the incidence of injury means that we can make ice hockey safer and avoid the devastating consequences of spinal injuries," said Dr. Charles Tator, Krembil Neuroscience Centre Neurosurgeon and founder of ThinkFirst Canada. "Ice hockey leagues should continue to promote safety, enforce rules and teach respect towards other players to reinforce the positive trend we are seeing in awareness and player attitudes, for example, hitting from behind has been reduced".

In 1985, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (now Hockey Canada) introduced the first specific penalty against checking from behind – which was one of the most common causes of spinal injury in ice hockey. Since the penalty was introduced consistent enforcement against this infraction has improved.

Several injury prevention programs targeted at coaches and players have also been initiated and grown over the past two decades. Examples include ThinkFirst's Smart Hockey Program, a video and leaders guide to educate coaches and players about spinal injuries and the STOP program, which uses stop signs on the back of hockey jerseys to remind against hits from behind. ThinkFirst operates the Canadian and International Ice Hockey Spinal Injuries Registries which track the data.

Injury facts:

  • 90% of ice hockey related spinal injuries occur in organized league games
  • 64% of spinal injuries occur because of impact with the boards
  • Two-thirds of spinal injuries happened to players 20 years of age or younger
  • The average number of spinal injuries was 6.7 per year between 2000 – 2005, approx. half the annual average of 12 cases per year from 1981 – 1999
  • Injury rates continue to vary between provinces, with the highest in Ontario, BC, New Brunswick and PEI, and the lowest in Quebec and Newfoundland


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About Krembil Neuroscience Centre

The Krembil Neuroscience Centre (KNC), located at Toronto Western Hospital, is home to one of the largest combined clinical and research neurological facilities in North America. Since opening in 2001, KNC has been recognized as a world leader through its research achievements, education and exemplary patient care. The centre focuses on the advancement, detection and treatment of neurological diseases and specializes in movement disorders, dementias, stroke, spinal cord injury, blinding eye diseases, epilepsy and cancer-related conditions.

For more information please visit

About ThinkFirst Canada

ThinkFirst Canada works to reduce traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries sustained by children and youth through education, advocacy and work with research partners. As Canada's national brain and spinal cord injury prevention not-for-profit organization, ThinkFirst Canada remains passionate about delivering important information about brain and spinal cord function and injury prevention to children across the country. 

For more information please visit


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