Dr. Michael Cusimano of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto looked at causes of sports-related brain injuries suffered by Canadian youth.
"Unless we understand how children are getting hurt in sport, we can't develop ways to prevent these serious injuries from happening," Cusimano, a neurosurgeon who led the study, said in a statement. "One would think that we know the reasons why kids are having brain injuries in sports, but until now, it was based mainly on anecdotes."
The study used data from The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program to look at the almost 13,000 children and youth ages 5-19 who had a sports-related brain injury from 1990-2009.
The researchers categorized injuries by players' ages, what sport they occurred in and what mechanisms had caused them such as "struck by player," "struck by object," struck by sport implement," such as ball or stick, "struck by playing surface" and "other."
Hockey accounted for 44.3 percent of all injuries and almost 70 percent of them occurred in children age 10 and older as a result of player-to-player contact or being hit into the boards.
"This shows that body contact is still an area where we need to make major inroads to preventing brain injuries," Cusimano said. "For example, enforcing existing rules and making more effective incentives and disincentives about checking from behind could make huge improvements."
The findings appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.