Guest Post by:

Bobby Weisenberger, ATC, PES
Head Athletic Trainer Charleston Battery
MUSC Sports Medicine

As the calendar turns to fall, Ice Hockey fans start to look to the start of a new season.  Hockey players of all skill levels are starting to hit the ice.  All of the major leagues including NHL, AHL, ECHL, and NCAA have seasons starting in October with the High School and Youth leagues following their lead.

Hockey is a considered a collision sport and treated as “high risk of injury”.  Due to the high contact nature of the game, hockey players wear a great deal of protective padding.  This padding consist of helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, padded gloves, padded pants that also protect kidneys, shin pads that also cover the knee, and skates.  Goalies wear helmets with full-face cages, a heavy-duty chest protector, wrist blocker and catching glove, large padded shin pads, and skates.  Due to several instances of eye injury, all of the pro leagues have mandated visors on helmets, while the NCAA and the leagues below require full-face protection.

Even with all of this protection injuries are still a major part of the game.  The most common injury in hockey are lacerations to the face caused by contact to the face by opposing players, high sticks, hitting the boards/glass, or being hit by the puck.  Ligament injuries, muscle strains, fractures, concussions, and contusions are also very common.  Many players suffer groin strains due to the specific types of movement required on the frictionless surface.  Knees and ankles are also susceptible to injury because of the heavy torque placed on the lower extremity during turning and pivoting on the ice.   Knees and ankles are also vulnerable to injury through contact with opposing players.

While some of these injuries are unpreventable, players can prevent many of them by engaging in proper training programs and proper pre practice/ pregame warm-ups.  Proper training programs include strengthening any muscles that are determined to be deficient.  Players should also be on a daily flexibility program to ensure they can function through a complete range of motion.  Pre practice and pregame warm-ups should consist of active muscle warm-up activities and drills.  Players must properly warm-up muscle groups before attempting any dynamic movements on the ice.

With the proper precautions and preparations, Ice Hockey is a great game that can be enjoyed safely at many ages.  Any and all injuries should be immediately reported to your teams Athletic Trainer and Team Physicians to ensure all injuries are dealt with in a timely manor with player safety always the main focus.