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Sport Specific Injuries: Ice Hockey

It seems like humans have been chasing a ball with a stick over ice almost as long as they can remember. Historical evidence shows that hockey-like games were played as far back as the middle ages and were spread between several continents. Today this popular pastime can be enjoyed on a variety of levels (youth, collegiate, semi-pro, professional, and even Olympic), and it’s also one of the few hard-hitting sports that is widely available to women.

Although hockey players must wear a good amount of protective gear, injuries are still common and can be quite serious. Therefore it’s important to be aware of common risks, how best to prevent them, and what to do should you find yourself injured.

According to the Hughston Clinic, an estimated 80% of all hockey injuries are caused by direct trauma, such as checking, falls, or getting hit with a stick, puck, or skate blade. This direct trauma tends to have even more impact when it occurs between players of different sizes or when improper form is used (for example, spearing). The results could be minor bumps and bruises, black eyes, broken teeth, lacerations, or even a concussion or serious neck injury. Separated shoulders, cruciate ligament tears, and “gamekeeper’s thumb” (tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the hand) are also more common in hockey than in other sports.

Because of the dangers associated with direct trauma in hockey, it’s important that athletes learn how to play correctly, intelligently, and with a sense of fairness. Always use correct form to minimize injuries to yourself and others. Be aware that your helmet and other protective gear does not make you invincible, nor does it make other players immune to injury. Play fair at all times; checks in the back, fighting, and other forms of unnecessary contact should always be discouraged.

Not all hockey injuries are due to direct trauma, however. Some of the more mundane hockey ailments include tendonitis and lower back pain (due to skating motions), muscle soreness, blisters, and frostbite. These conditions can be managed with the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation), stretching, good nutrition and hydration, and off-season conditioning. Blisters and frostbite can be prevented with well-fitting skates and protective equipment and by taking regular breaks during play and practice.

Hockey is so much fun to watch and play that it’s worth learning how to play safely. Keep up the hard work, stay safe, and have a great season! Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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