Is Hockey More Dangerous Than Football? See What the Stats Show!

Is Hockey More Dangerous Than Football? See What the Stats Show!

Ice Hockey vs Football

Hockey and football are, without a doubt, two of the most exciting sports on the planet. Admittedly, part of what makes them both so exciting is their fast-paced and rough, aggressive nature. Because of this trade-off, we know that both sports could be dangerous, but is hockey more dangerous than football?

Hockey is not more dangerous than football. The statistics show that NCAA ice hockey players reported concussions at a rate of 0.41 per 1,000 AE, whereas NCAA spring football was 0.54 per 1,000 AE. At the high school level, football players suffered 1.04 per 1,000 to ice hockey’s 0.77.

In this article, we will cover the most prevalent types of injuries that are to be expected in both hockey and football and assess the severity of these various categories of injury.

Lastly, we will examine the studies and statistics comparatively to determine whether or not hockey is more dangerous than football.

Overview: Hockey vs. Football

When attempting to create a comparative analysis for determining whether or not hockey is more dangerous than football, it is essential to identify the commonalities between the two sports as they relate to injuries and compare them on that basis.

In this section, we will seek to establish the ways in which hockey and football are similar and dissimilar. This will provide the necessary foundation for the relevance of the research to follow.

It must also be considered that the likelihood of injury is highly dependent on a player’s position and role on the team.

It is essential to keep in mind that while we acknowledge hockey and football’s potential brutality, we are by no means condemning these sports. We are merely presenting the data as it is best understood.

All sports carry with them a particular element of inherent danger and associated risk factors, whether or not they are categorized as contact sports.

If you are looking for a high-quality youth football helmet that is sure to provide maximum protection, the Speedflex youth helmet is the top of the line and meets all safety requirements. For the price and security, this helmet can simply not be beaten.

As for the hockey side of things, we’ve got an article looking into the best youth hockey helmet to get.


Hockey is a notoriously aggressive sport with a high rate of both minor and major injuries because of the intense nature. We’ve also written an article going over the potential dangers of hockey.

Unlike football, which is played in intervals, hockey is a free-flowing and spontaneous sport played for extended periods of uninterrupted action. This adds an element of unpredictability, which opens the door for many injuries to occur.

The fact that hockey is played on ice and surrounded by walls or “boards” adds another challenging aspect to the game’s nature.

One of the most famous instances of an injury in hockey came in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals. In this game, Anaheim Mighty Ducks captain Paul Kariya was knocked unconscious by a cheap shot and would remain unconscious for nearly one full minute.

Kariya returned to the ice later that same night and scored a goal to win his team the game! Kariya would later be forced to retire due to hist concussion accumulation.

Today this would not be permitted. Professional sports have come a long way in the past few decades for prioritizing the health of players. However, concussions and other serious injuries are still very widespread.

Also, be sure to read our article looking into the statistics of youth ice hockey concussions and potential ways to avoid them.


Football is unique in that the players wear a large amount of padding and equipment, which, although designed to provide protection, simultaneously allows the players to impact one another with a lot more blunt force than would be possible without it.

Moreover, comprehensive surveys and studies have found that many players use their helmets as a weapon on the field at times, which can lead to very serious injuries.

Some professional sports analysts and experts have argued that helmets are doing more harm than good injury-wise. This may seem like a counter-intuitive notion initially, but a closer look may shed some light on the presumption.

Most Prevalent Types of Injuries

The types of injuries prevalent in both hockey and football are generally similar. The most common injuries in both hockey and football are:

  • Broken/fractured bones
  • Torn muscles
  • Broken teeth
  • Concussions/traumatic brain injury
  • Repetitive motion syndrome/overuse injury

CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy)

While all of these injuries listed above can lead to chronic, long-lasting issues and must, therefore, be taken seriously, special consideration should be given to the incident of concussions and traumatic brain injury.

CTE refers to the degenerative effect that the brain suffers from repeated blows to the head.

The long term effects of CTE are extremely concerning and include:

  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidality
  • Aggressiveness
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Diminished motor skills and spatial awareness

In 2011, Dave Duerson, an American football player who spent the majority of his professional career on the Chicago Bears, tragically ended his own life with a gunshot wound to his chest.

Duerson was aware that he had been suffering from CTE and had left a request for his brain to be examined. Upon examination, it was confirmed that Duerson had been suffering from severe CTE due to a long career of repeated concussions.

Comparative Statistics Between Hockey and Football

While the statistics provided in this section are considered adequate for demonstrating the difference in danger between hockey and football, it must be noted that many concussions go unreported. It should be assumed that the numbers are most likely higher in actuality than what the censuses confirm, but to what extent we can not be sure.

It is essential to gather samples that contrast statistics across different skill levels and age categories to demonstrate if these trends are, in fact, consistent across the sports of hockey and football as a whole and are not isolated to a particular division of competition.

According to a study conducted by the clinics in sports medicine, using data spanning from 1988-89 to 2003-04, the concussion rate per 1,000 AE (athletic exposures) for NCAA men’s ice hockey players was 0.41 and for men’s football 0.54. These findings show a slightly higher concussion rate in football than in hockey.

Figures from another study, based on highschool athletes, collected between 2013-14 to 2017-18 showed that boys football players reported concussions at a rate of 1.04 per 1,000 AE, while the number for boys’ ice hockey concussions was 0.77 per 1,000 AE. These numbers include concussions reported both during practice and competition.

The numbers recorded in the latter study showed that the discrepancy in concussions between football and ice hockey is may be more significant amongst the younger and less professional players, with football being the more dangerous in both cases.

While the problem of concussions in sports has come a long way and continues to improve, there is still much to be learned about the effects and best prevention methods in regards to CTE.

If you’re interested, we’ve also written an article discussing why hockey is a contact sport. This may help you understand why these risks are taken in the sport, even with the potentially harmful outcomes to the players.

If you are working with athletes or are yourself one, always be sure to err on the side of caution if you suspect you may have sustained a concussion or any injury for that matter.

Report all injuries to coaches and qualified medical professionals as soon as possible. Early diagnosis significantly improves the odds and timeframe of a full recovery.


The first thing we determined in answering whether hockey was more dangerous than football was that concussions are uniquely dangerous compared with other sports-related injuries.

One study showed that NCAA football players reported concussions at a rate of 0.54 per 1,000 AE compared to hockey’s 0.41. Another study showed us that amongst high schoolers, football players reported concussions at a rate of 1.04 per 1,000 AE to boy’s ice hockey’s 0.77.

Based on these findings, we were able to conclude that football could be considered more dangerous than hockey.