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A study out of York University says bodychecking is a leading cause of injury in youth hockey in the three countries it studied. ((Kevin Light/CBC Sports))

Bodychecking in youth hockey leagues is associated with an increased risk of injury to players, says a new study led by York University.

The study, a review of published research from Canada, the U.S. and Finland, cited bodychecking as a leading cause of injury in youth leagues in the three countries.

The research confirms the main finding of a York-led study from three years ago that found bodychecking was hazardous to young hockey players.

"Nineteen of the 20 studies we looked at this time showed an increased risk of injuries when bodychecking was permitted, and some of these injuries were very serious," said Alison Macpherson, a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York.

"We reviewed nine studies from Canada, nine from the U.S. and two from Finland, and the findings from all but one support recommendations that children should play in non-contact hockey leagues until they are at least at the bantam level — 13 years of age."

Some of the studies included leagues with players up to age 20, but the worst injuries were among younger players.

"Fractures were the most common injuries, with most of the fractures occurring to those in checking leagues", said Dr. Andrew Howard, a staff orthopedic surgeon and director of the Trauma Program at the Hospital for Sick Children.

"Hockey is a high-energy sport, and this creates a potential for fractures which prevent return to play for a very long time, or in rare cases are disabling.

"Equally important is the risk for concussion, with repeat or even single concussions causing loss of educational and workplace performance relative to one's peers."