Hockey and Ice Hockey Injury Statistics

Professional hockey players bending forwards while standing on ice rink

When it comes to field hockey and ice hockey, injuries statistics and data are tricky to collect and analyse due to the nature of the situations where both disciplines of hockey are played, who is playing, and the varying rules and regulations around injury reporting. 
Keeping track of hockey injuries statistics is an important way for organisations to reduce the risk that hockey players face and minimise the occurrence of injury across both sports. While hockey institutions and governing bodies around the world often have injury reporting records, it’s difficult to gather meaningful, representative, and accurate data at an international level. In turn, it’s even harder to draw conclusive learnings from the data that can be applied to field hockey and ice hockey separately as international sports, as well as comparing the injury statistics of the different disciplines in a meaningful way.

Portrait Of Player Holding Ice Hockey Stick While Standing On Rink

In this article, we’ve gathered data from reputable institutions that have reviewed injury reports. We compare the fundamental differences between field hockey and ice hockey that contribute to the injury incident and outline the main findings from the available field hockey and ice hockey injury statistics.

Field Hockey VS Ice Hockey: The Key Differences

While the basic premise might be considered the same, field hockey and ice hockey are separate sports with several core differences that impact the intensity and risk of injury during play. 

Field hockey is widely considered to be dangerous when the right preventative measures aren’t in place, and essential safety equipment isn’t used, and injuries do occur. 
Ice hockey is generally classed as riskier with an increased likelihood of injury due to the speed over the ice and frequent impact between players for which ice hockey is renowned. Britain’s national governing body for ice hockey, Ice Hockey UK (IHUK) describe the sport as “the fastest team game in the world”. This high-speed play comes with an increased risk of incident and injury.

Hockey together hands and women teamwork

To better understand the differences between field hockey and ice hockey in the UK, we compare aspects of the two sports in the table below.

  Field Hockey (outdoor) Ice Hockey
Length of game Two periods of 35 minutes and a half-time interval of 5 minutes. Three twenty-minute periods of play with breaks of 10-15 mins in between.
Field/Ring Size Outdoor field measures 91.4m long x 55m wide Ice ring typically measures 60m long x 30m wide.
Team size Eleven players at a time on each side. Six players at a time on each side.
Ball/Puck Specifications Spherical ball with a circumference ranging between 224mm and 235mm. Standard weight is between 156 grams and 163 grams.

Made of any hard, smooth material and usually coloured white.
Circular puck with flat sides that’s 7.62cm in diameter and 2.54cm thick. 

Made of solid vulcanised rubber, and weighs 143 grams
Hockey Stick Specifications The stick must have a traditional shape with a handle and a curved head, which is flat on its left side.
(Find official specification guidance here).
Ice hockey sticks are composed of a long, slender shaft with a flat extension at one end called the blade. The approximate length is 150–200 cm long.
Protective Gear Required A goalkeeper wearing a different colour shirt and protective equipment comprising headgear, leg guards and kickers at a minimum. Ice hockey helmets with a plastic cage over the face, protective ear flaps and a chin strap.
The Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) require ice hockey helmets to withstand blows up to 300g of force. 
Additional protective equipment must be worn, designed for optimal safety. Players must be well-padded with knee pads, shin, hip, elbow and shoulder guards, thick gauntlet-style gloves, long stockings that fit over the knee pads, and padded shorts.
Goalkeepers must wear even more protective equipment than the rest of the team due to the increased risk of impact with the puck throughout the game.
Footwear Worn Field hockey players wear shoes with cleats when playing outdoors or rubber-soled shoes when they’re playing indoors. Ice hockey boots are different from figure skating shoes and are stronger. They feature lower ankle support, padded tongues, and reinforced toes. The blade is thin, straight, and has a plain point to reduce the risk of serious injury.
Common offences that receive penalties Offences include tripping, pushing, charging, interfering with or physically handling an opponent in any way. Fouls result in a free hit or a ‘penalty corner’ for the non-offending team, depending on the severity of the foul and where it took place on the field. Offences include charging, elbowing, boarding, tripping, checking from behind, high sticks, interference, roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct. Fouls can result in time penalties and even ejection from the game, depending on the severity of the offence.
Ball/Puck Contact Rule Ball can only be hit with the flat side of a player’s stick.
Players (apart from the goalkeeper) can’t use their feet, hands, or any other parts of their body to control the ball.
The puck must not be pushed forward except by a hockey stick or skate, but a player may stop the puck with their hand, body or skate at any time, in any position.
Game Overseen By Two umpires control the match. Each umpire is primarily responsible for decisions in their designated half of the field. Two linesmen along the edges and one or two referees per game (depending on league).

Field Hockey Injuries Statistics

Over 100,000 people play field hockey in the UK, and the data on field hockey injuries statistics is difficult to analyse and pluck solid figures from due to the many levels, facilities, and demographics that partake in the sport. 

The UK’s national governing body for hockey, England Hockey, outline information around field hockey injury reporting and hockey injuries statistics in their Official Safety FAQs

The NHS reports that just 2% of admissions to A&E are caused by sports and the last government survey of A&E admissions for females aged 0-19 years found that [field] hockey only accounted for 4% of sports injuries.
According to their internal review of field hockey injuries, statistics from England Hockey and the NHS show that field hockey is not as dangerous as other popular sports such as football, basketball, and rugby.

Field turf hockey goals and sports stadium for fitness contest

When looking at field hockey injury rates at an international level, more conclusions can be drawn. As part of their efforts to track field hockey injuries, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) summarised the following field hockey injuries statistics: 

Overall number of acute injuries/1000 player-match-hours.

  • 29/1000 in women 
  • 48/1000 in men 
  • 58/1000 in junior men 
  • 86/1000 in youth girls 
  • 53/1000 in youth boys

This data shows that ‘women sustained less injuries than men’ and that ‘youth girls sustained more injuries than youth boys.’ 

Interestingly, when looking at field hockey injuries, statistics collated in the FIH’s ‘Injury data of major international field hockey tournaments’ report show that injuries are more likely to occur towards the beginning and middle parts of a match. 

In general, injuries are less likely to occur if a hockey game is broken up with more breaks, with the FIH concluding that the field hockey ‘injury rate increases according to the time of play, but this is less pronounced if four quarters are played.’

At the competition level, field hockey injuries are most commonly caused by impact with the hockey ball(37-52%), followed by contact with a hockey stick (14-25%), and collisions between players are more likely to cause injury on men’s teams, while injuries caused by trips or falls affect women’s teams more frequently. 

Injuries in professional, international-level field hockey are more likely to affect the head and face area (27-40%), with the thigh and knee area the second most common injury area, with hand and finger injuries proving to be common as well. We discuss how to treat common hockey injuries on our blog.

In summary, the FIH concludes that ‘field hockey has a low incidence of acute injuries during competition’ but notes that these findings only reflect competition-level injury reporting in field hockey. Injuries statistics for the sport on a more general level are not conclusive. 

In the UK, all field hockey clubs, coaches and organisations are legally obliged to provide access to a first aid kit. Check out our article about essential hockey first aid kit contents for more information.

Ice Hockey Injury Statistics

Ice hockey is played across over 55 countries globally. Ice hockey’s international governing body, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has been in operation since 1908, with the UK as a founding member. 

Ice hockey is widely recognised as a high-speed and high-impact sport, and injuries resulting during play are unfortunately common. 

A 2019 study entitled ‘Epidemiology of Injuries in Ice Hockey’ found that: 

Injuries at the most elite levels of hockey are frequent, likely due to equipment and rule differences as well as the high speed and aggressive nature of play. Ice hockey was the highest risk sport at the 2010 Olympic Games with 13% to 35% of participants affected. 

A 2006 study by the Journal of Athletic Traning looked at the injuries sustained by youth ice hockey players compared to lacrosse and field hockey players in the United States. The study reviewed the data around youth ice hockey injury, statistics show that over 170,000 injuries were reported to the US emergency services between 1990-2003. 

Male players were found to primarily injure their hands, wrists, face, shoulders, and upper arms the most often, while female ice hockey players were most likely to injure their face, head, hand, or wrists.

hockey player

The same study compared field hockey injuries statistics with ice hockey injury data in youth teams and concluded that ‘Male field hockey players sustained a larger proportion of facial injuries than male ice hockey’. 

However, a more recent 2021 study that reviewed the question ‘Which Sport Is More Dangerous: Ice Hockey or Field Hockey?’ concluded that:

Ice hockey was more associated with injuries to the head and neck as well as with concussions and internal organ injury compared to field hockey. However, ice hockey was not associated with increased risk of hospitalization relative to field hockey.

Multiple studies into ice hockey injuries report that ‘injuries are a common part of the sport, with more injuries occurring in games compared with practice.’ 

While the data on field hockey and ice hockey injury statistics often only review a specific country, age group, gender, or level of player injuries in the sports, it is clear that both field hockey and ice hockey present a relatively substantial risk of injury to players at all levels. 
Ensure that you have qualified first aid personnel on hand who have attended suitable sports first aid course. Protect your players with appropriate safety equipment and have injury-prevention protocols in place to maintain player safety at all times across both disciplines to avoid regular trips to the A&E.

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