Body-checking in minor hockey should not be allowed until players are at least 13 years old, a group representing Canada’s pediatricians says.
Checking is allowed in B.C. for children as young as 11, although some leagues make players wait until they're older.
But 11 is too young to take a hit, according to Dr. Kristin Houghton.
"Children are more vulnerable to concussion than adults. They're more likely to have a concussion, they're more likely to have severe symptoms," Houghton said.
In a position statement published Friday, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that body-checking be banned in all recreational leagues and not allowed until bantam level of play, or age 13.
The doctors are taking the position because of recent studies comparing injuries in Alberta leagues with 11- and 12-year-old players, in which checking is allowed, to those in Quebec, where it's banned for that age group.
The study found body-checking leagues had three times more injuries and four times more concussions than those where hard contact was not allowed.
Veteran coach agrees
Houghton said raising the age for checking would have a positive effect.
"With that change, we're hopeful that there will be hundreds of kids who will not have severe injury or concussion and be able to continue safely participating in hockey."
Vancouver Thunderbirds coach Martin Salter has coached youth hockey for 30 years and he agrees that most 11- and 12-year-olds aren't ready for body-checking.
"Younger than 13, their bodies haven't matured enough to be able to take the contact and the grind," Salter said.
Salter, who coaches bantam players, said he knows there are players -- and parents -- who want to see physically competitive skills developed as early as possible, but he also sees the consequences.
"I think this year we've got four or five players that have had concussions already from prior years. That's a pretty high rate."