Ice hockey has a long and illustrious history. It originated in Canada in the mid-1800s as the brainchild of James G. Creighton. By 1877, McGill University in Montreal, Canada, organized the first official hockey team. Ice hockey made its way across the pond with the first European hockey games being held at the Prince’s Skating Club in Knightsbridge, England. In 1908, three years after the first international games between Belgium and France, the International Ice Hockey Federation was formed.
Ice hockey is a fast-paced game that requires the use of a lot of specialized equipment to ensure player safety. However, it’s still very much possible to get injured, even with protective equipment.
Types of Ice Hockey Injuries
Ice hockey injuries tend to fall under two categories: Acute or traumatic injuries and chronic or overuse injuries.
Acute or traumatic injuries are sudden injuries that are the result of an immediate trauma. The pain associated with an acute injury is usually sudden and severe and could include swelling, loss of range of motion, and weakness in the affected muscle, joint, or limb. Other acute or traumatic injuries include fractures, concussions, bruises and abrasions.
Acute hockey injuries could be cause by impact, such as a puck hitting the body or collisions on the ice; muscle, ligament, and tendon sprains and strains; and cuts and lacerations.
Chronic or Overuse Injuries are persistent and long-lasting injuries that tend to develop over time. In the early stages, chronic injuries exhibit mild symptoms and low-grade pain that come and go over a period of months, and even years. You might pain while performing certain activities, and a dull ache or numbness while at rest. If the initial symptoms are ignored they can become more severe and persistent and, eventually debilitating. Chronic injuries can often be the result of an acute injury.
Chronic hockey injuries could be caused by an acute injury, such as a cracked vertebra from a puck impact leading to long-term back pain; overuse, such as the same repetitive actions straining muscles and wearing down bone or cartilage; and, overtraining, which is pushing your body beyond its ability to recover.
Preventing Hockey Injuries
Having appropriate, well-fitting, safety equipment in good working condition is crucial for preventing many acute hockey injuries.
For adults who are responsible for their own equipment this means following the proper equipment maintenance protocols, including inspecting your equipment to make sure it’s not worn out, and that it is in good working order. It also means repairing the equipment if it’s damaged, or replacing it if it can’t be repaired.
For kids it means making sure the equipment fits well, especially if they are going through a growth phase. This could mean replacing the equipment often, which could be an expensive proposition. One solution might be to purchase the equipment second hand from a reliable retailer, check garage sales, or look at classified listings like Craigslist. If you have several children who play, you can also exchange equipment between them as long as they fit properly. Another option is to search for deals online from companies like Goalie Monkey or Discount Hockey.
In addition to having the proper equipment, you should also warm up and stretch every time you play, stay well hydrated, and stay in good physical condition during the play season and the off-season.
The best way to prevent chronic injuries is to avoid overuse and take proper care of acute injuries when they happen.
To prevent overuse you should make sure you are using proper form, and take breaks during your training to allow yourself adequate time to recover.
The best way prevent chronic pain from acute injuries is to take proper care of the acute injury when it occurs. This means:
• Becoming aware of when your body is signaling that something is wrong, and stopping all activity before the injury worsens;
• Treating the injury as quickly as possible;
• Allowing the appropriate amount of rest before resuming the activity;
• Taking any prescribed medications as directed by your doctor;
• Easing back into the activity, and using physical therapy if required; and
• Otherwise following your medical professional’s advice regarding injury recovery.