The Relative Age Effect in Minor Ice Hockey: Investigating the 'Underdog Effect'
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Abstract The Relative Age Effect (RAE), defined as a skewed birth date distribution, has been identified as a known phenomenon in minor ice hockey. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between the RAE, physical measurements, and skating ability/in-game performance in forty-four youth male ice hockey players competing in the same age cohort. Physical anthropometrics, grip strength, in-game performance and skating abilities were measured. An RAE was found in the sample (χ2(3, N = 44) = 12.18, p = 0.007). Players born in the first half of the age cohort had longer leg length (F(1,42) =4.49 , p = 0.04), larger body mass (F(1,42) = 3.90, p = 0.05), and stronger grip strength (F(1,42) = 7.58, p = 0.009). Performance scores were negatively associated with grip strength (r = -.443, p = 0.003). Findings suggest that adequate skill development can help relatively younger players overcome physical maturity disadvantages.