We recently published a paper in the International Journal of Sports Medicine (Dengel et al., 2021) on body composition measures in over 83 NCAA Division I collegiate male and female ice hockey athletes. There is a wealth of information in the article and I encourage you to read it. This blog post is a companion to another blog post that I wrote examining the body composition in NCAA Division I male ice hockey athletes from that article (Dengel et al., 2021).  For this blog post, I am going to focus on the female ice hockey athletes players’ data from that article. 

A total 34 NCAA Division I female ice hockey athletes were classified as: goaltenders (n=6), forwards (n=18), or defenseman (n=10).  All of these collegiate ice hockey athletes had their body composition determined by dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which is considered the “gold standard” for measuring body composition due to its accuracy as well as its ability to measure regional as well as total body composition. 

Total body composition measures of female ice hockey athletes (Table 1).
First, let’s look at the measures of total body composition. In Table 1, which can be found below the mean (+ standard deviation) as well as ranges for total body composition characteristics for these collegiate female ice hockey athletes by position are presented. Although there were no significant differences in height among the three position groups there was a difference in total body mass with defensemen being significantly heavier than forwards. The goaltender’s total body weight was not significantly different from the other two position groups. 

In the male collegiate ice hockey athletes, who part were also part of the original study we did not find any differences in measures of total body composition across the three position groups. However, in the female collegiate ice hockey athletes examined in this study we observed significant differences in measures of total body composition among the three position groups. Forwards had significantly less total fat mass (FM) and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) than both goaltenders and defensemen, while there were no differences in FM and VAT between defensemen and goaltenders. The defensemen had a greater amount of lean mass (LM) than forwards, however it was not different from the LM in the goaltenders. In addition, goaltenders and forwards had a similar amount of LM. Although the defensemen had significantly more bone mineral mass (BMC) than forwards all three positions had the same degree of bone mineral density (BMD).

Regional body composition measures of female collegiate ice hockey athletes (Table 2).
Since ice hockey athletes utilize so much lower body muscle to skate and perform we decided to look at regional measures of leg as well as arm body composition. In Table 2 found below, you can examine the regional body composition measurements by position for our female collegiate ice hockey athletes. Similar to the DXA measures of total body composition the forwards have less total mass as well as LM and BMC in the arms as well as the legs than the defensemen. There was no difference in these measures between the goaltenders and forwards or defensemen.  The BMD in the arms and legs was the same for all three positions.

Seasonal changes in body composition (Table 3).
These athletes were scanned at three different seasonal times points: pre-season (August-September), in-season (October-March), and off-season (April-July). For females from pre-season to in-season, there was a significant decrease in total body mass, which was due to a decrease in both FM as well as LM. This was different from what we observed in male collegiate ice hockey athletes. 

What does it all mean?
The main findings of this study were that in female collegiate ice hockey athletes, defensemen had more total mass and LM than forwards.  These differences in total body mass and LM were also seen in regional composition measures of legs and arms. Even though there were differences in body mass and LM there were no differences in total or regional BMD among the three positions.  Of interest was the observed seasonal changes in body composition in females, which was different than what we observed in the male collegiate ice hockey athletes.  These differences in seasonal body composition may indicate possible differences in training regimens during the off-season compared to males.

For those that want more detailed information, I refer you to the original paper (Dengel et al., 2021), which this blog post is based on.  I also urge you to read the companion blog post on NCAA Division I collegiate male ice hockey athletes. If you have questions regarding this blog post or the original paper (Dengel et al., 2021), that this blog post is based on please contact the corresponding author Dr. Don Dengel (e-mail: denge001@umn.edu).

Dengel DR, Roelofs EJ, Czeck MA, Bosch TA: Male and female collegiate ice hockey athletes’ body composition over competitive seasons. International Journal of Sports Medicine 42:1313-1318, 2021. 

About the Author
Donald Dengel, Ph.D., is a Professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and is a co-founder of Dexalytics. He serves as the Director of the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology, which provides clinical vascular, metabolic, exercise and body composition testing for researchers across the University of Minnesota.


Share this article