The Canadian Hockey Association, after a three-year pilot project, made the decision to allow checking for the 2002-2003 season at the Atom level, which drops the age in which bodychecking begins from twelve to nine. Shortly after this decision the Canadian Chiropractic Association opposed allowing young minor hockey players to bodycheck, saying it can lead to long-term developmental problems.
Dr. Greg Stewart, president of the Canadian Chiropractic Association responded by saying, “It’s a move I think they should reconsider.” He went on to say, “Boys who are aged nine, they don’t have the skill development to take a proper hit or to give one. They don’t have the stability, they don’t have the balance in the skates and they definitely don’t have the muscular strength. There’s more to it than the catastrophic injuries,” he said. “Tissue injuries at that age can lead to longer-term consequences.”
The article on this debate appeared in the Canadian Press of Wednesday, January 29, 2003. The article noted that bone formation does not begin to mature until a child reaches puberty, Stewart explained, and injuries to immature bone structures in young players can cause deviations in bone development.
The Canadian Hockey Association based its decision on a study out of Lakehead University which compared injuries in a group of children that was allowed to bodycheck to a group that was not. The study concluded introducing bodychecking at the age of nine to twelve didn’t significantly increase the risk of injuries to players. The Canadian Chiropractic Association recently criticized the Lakehead study’s methodology, saying it was flawed and actually proved the reverse, that there were more injuries. “We’re not actually jumping on anyone else’s bandwagon,” said Dr. Stewart. “We’re looking at it from a profession that treats all ages and we want young boys to develop into healthy young men.