Physical fitness, past injuries, age, level of competition, position and style of play all affect susceptibility to injury. Besides pulled muscles, minor scrapes and bruises, the most common injuries in minor hockey are to the shoulders, knees, head and neck and include dislocated shoulders, fractured collarbones, sprained medial collateral ligaments (MCL, which is the inside of the knee) and concussions.
Hockey has some unavoidable hazards, but following these steps can help decrease the risk of injury:
Start with proper hockey gear
- Head protection. Helmets should fit snugly with only one finger able to fit between the chin and the chinstrap. Replace helmets every three years or sooner if it sustains damage or a severe hit.
- The right fit. Properly fitted equipment is necessary for the best protection. Check all equipment for Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approval.
- Mouth protection. Mouth guards not only protect teeth, they also help prevent concussions.
- STOP. Is the STOP patch on the back of all team jerseys? The STOP (Safety Towards Other Player) program was designed to raise awareness of hitting from behind.
- Stay in shape. Fatigue injuries happen more frequently in exhibition and preseason games and in the later stages of games. Maintaining endurance, strength and flexibility throughout the year can help avoid injuries.
- Warm up. Prepare the body for exercise and help prevent muscle strains by doing appropriate warm-up activities.
- Check out your coach’s credentials. Coaching certification is designed to increase awareness of situations that may promote injuries.
- Consult the team trainer. A certified trainer is taught how to prevent, recognize and treat hockey injuries.
- Respect officials. Officials are integral to maintaining the sportsmanlike competition and safety at every game. Support their enforcement of rules that protect players from injuries e.g., high sticking, spearing, fighting, checking from behind, etc.
- Lead by example. Promote an atmosphere of healthy competition, sportsmanship and safe play. Set a good example by respecting players, coaches and officials both on and off the ice.
- A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that results from a hit to the head or collision with the boards, ice or other bodies. Body checking is the primary cause of concussions.
- Players can suffer a concussion without being ‘knocked out’. Having just one concussion puts players at greater risk of more severe concussions throughout their athletic career.
- Long-term effects of head injuries include unrelenting headaches, nausea, distractibility, developmental difficulties, fatigue and decreased motivation.
- Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion, including ‘not feeling right’, vomiting, fatigue and persistent headaches.
- If your child took a hit and you suspect something might be wrong, seek medical attention.
- Do not let your child return to any form of physical activity, including training or practices, until cleared by a doctor.
Hockey is a rewarding sport that instills dedication and teamwork, and it’s a great way for kids to stay active. The fun stops when an injury forces a player to the stands. With a few precautions and a little planning you can help your all-star get the most out of the season. To make sure everyone has the best possible experience, lead by example—promote safe, fair play.