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Ice Hockey: Many Injuries are Preventable

Ice hockey players fighting for the puckOn frozen ponds and indoor rinks across the country, boy and girls are dusting off their skates and sticks and hitting the ice. Hockey has become one of the four top professional sports in North America, and growing numbers of young athletes are getting into the game. The STOP Sports Injuries campaign warns players, coaches and parents to pay attention to injury risks and take steps to prevent injuries even before the game begins.

With a rise in popularity comes an increase in skill level, intensity and competition that can increase the possibility of injury. As a full-contact sport that takes place on the ice with fast-moving players equipped with sticks, pucks and skate blades, hockey's risk for injury is always high.

Hockey players commonly suffer injuries to the head, shoulder, elbow, wrist, back, hip and knee, but concussion is the greatest concern. A player need not be knocked unconscious to have a concussion. Warning signs of concussion include:

  • Headache (by far the most common symptom, reported in 93% of high school sports concussions in one recent study)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Coordination
  • Vague sense of "not feeling right"

For a complete list of concussion signs and symptoms, click here.

Concussions and many other serious hockey injuries are preventable. "Whenever I talk to young players, I always say the same things," says Dr. Michael J. Stuart, a leading orthopedist and chief medical officer for USA Hockey. "Never use your stick; never use your head as a weapon; never leave your feet to deliver a hit; never do anything at the expense of the health and safety of your opponent or yourself. I try to show them that you don't have to kill the other guy to separate him from the puck."

Smart players take the right precautions on and off the ice. In addition to altering the way they play the game, players can take these prevention measures:

  • Have a pre-season medical examination (a/k/a pre-participation physical evaluation or PPE) by a trainer or doctor to make sure they're ready for play.
  • Participate in a sports conditioning program to stay in game-shape.
  • Use high-quality equipment and replace old worn-out gear.
  • Understand the rules of the game and good sportsmanship.
For more injury prevention tips, click here.

Source: American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine

The STOP (for Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries campaign - launched last spring by AOSSM and a group of other health-related organizations - aims to arm the public with information and tools to prevent, recognize and treat the long-term consequences of sports overuse and trauma injuries to young people. Led by Dr. James Andrews, the renowned surgeon for America's favorite sports superstars, the STOP Sports Injuries coalition members -including major medical centers, doctors, athletic trainers, youth sports coaches, and MomsTeam.com - have all pledged to advocate healthy play for young athletes in all sports.

Posted December 22, 2010,Updated Feb. 2,2015