As the leaves fall and the cold winds blow bringing in the beginning of the winter season, many will choose the comforting warmth of being inside. However, the change in weather also brings notice to another beginning – the start of hockey season!
Hockey is an intense, physical sport that demands strength and finesse. You have to be fit in order to win the puck from a scrum at the boards or to change direction quickly and take off in a fast sprint. It’s a fierce game that is played in 1-3 minute shifts of ice time before coming back to the bench to rest.
Like any sport, hockey is not without its penchant for injuries. Here’s a look at five of the most likely injuries to occur.
Back: Hockey players skate in a compromised position. They are bent forward and to one side, based on their handedness with their stick. They are susceptible to low back pain and muscle strains. Being properly conditioned for the sport and maintaining good core and hamstring flexibility are at the very base of how to take care of your back.
Hips: The hips transfer all the power for skating and are also susceptible to a great number of collisions and hits in the sport, not to mention absorbing blows from falling on the ice. Hip flexor and groin strains are common injuries, as well as hip contusions or possible hip pointers. Proper equipment with properly sized pants and padding is a key factor to protect against the hits. Maintaining good flexibility by being properly warmed up before the sport as well as good stretching afterwards helps to avoid these muscle pulls.
Shoulders: Much like the hips, the shoulders are also an area of the body where a great amount of contact is made. This can be from other players, slamming into the boards and protective glass or taking a fall to the floor. Painful contusions and bruises can develop and more severe hits could result in shoulder separations of the AC joint or clavicle (collarbone) fractures. This is where properly sized padding and good skating habits are important. Players have to be able to protect themselves from dangerous play.
Elbows and knees: These joints have the most movement in a hockey uniform, and that means less protection from padding due to that mobility. Elbows and knees are struck more often by hockey sticks. If a player can control his or her fall, they’ll land quite often on the knees and elbows. Repeated blows can always raise the risk of developing bursitis from this contact, or bad falls could lead to sprains of the joints as well. Make sure you have the best padding for your body size!
Head: It is probably no surprise that hockey players, teammates, coaches and parents need to be the most watchful for concussions. With the speed that players move at, the amount of collisions and the perilous terrain of ice underfoot, the possibility for an injury to the head is quite high. While helmets are there to protect the face and head, no helmet can directly negate the chance for an injury to the brain. This is a highly studied and scrutinized topic right now amongst all sports and within our national media.
Any player suspected of sustaining a concussion should be immediately removed from play. Even taking a blow to the head should warrant a trip to the bench for a sideline exam. Every concussion is different and is presented differently for each individual. A player may or may not lose consciousness. Complaints of an immediate headache, not “feeling right”, responding slowly or moving slowly and having difficulty with thinking or responding to questions are just the iceberg’s tip of symptoms that can happen. Every concussion should be medically evaluated.
Now that you know the common injuries associated with hockey, take the proper precautions to prevent them. If you do play hockey, remember to always wear protective gear and make sure you follow the rules to ensure the safety of all players.
If you have any questions please call your healthcare provider for medical advice.