The popularity of ice hockey is growing around the world thanks to the game's dazzling mix of speed and excitement. However, Dr. Charles Tator and colleagues report that mix can also be dangerous as at least 243 people suffered spinal injuries playing the game in Canada between the years of 1966 and 1996.
The 243 injuries represent come from reports to a registry of spinal injuries set up in 1984 and updated every two weeks. The injuries recorded include any fracture or dislocation of the spine sustained by a player, with or without injury to the spinal cord or nerve roots. The authors found that a push or check from behind accounted for 74 (40%) of the 184 cases where the cause of injury was known. An impact with the boards accounted for 157 (77%) of the 204 cases of injury where the object hit by the player was known.
The authors also report a disturbingly low median age of injured players (17 years) and regional disparities in the number of spinal injuries. Ontario accounted for 126 (52%) of the injuries, while only 22 (9%) came from Quebec, a value comparable to those of individual western provinces. In a related commentary, Dr. Barry Pless wonders whether board checks should be outlawed as they are at the peewee level (ages 12-13) in Quebec. He feels that the decision to prohibiting body contact at that level contributes to Quebec's lower number of spinal injuries when compared to Ontario, where checking is allowed at the peewee level.
Materials provided by Canadian Medical Association Journal. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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