Ice hockey is probably the most fast-paced team game in the world. It also has the reputation of being dangerous and violent. Both of these factors lead to a high incidence of injuries.
The most common injuries in ice hockey are to the head or face, followed by the knee and thigh. Most injuries occur as a result of a collision with another player, boundary wall or another player's stick.
The use of protective clothing is not uniform across all leagues of ice hockey. All players must wear hockey skates (not speed skates etc), but some leagues do not enforce the use of mouth guards or face shields. In order to have the best chance of avoiding injury, a full set of protective equipment should be worn. This usually includes helmets, face shields, mouth guards, neck guards, shoulder and elbow pads, padded shorts and shin guards.
Warm-ups in ice hockey usually occur completely on the ice, with slow skating being used as a pulse raiser. Other more fast-paced drills are then incorporated. Stretches are then performed, followed by sports specific drills incorporating passing and shooting.
Research has shown that as many as a third of injuries occur as a result of actions which are outside the rules of the game! In such a fast and aggressive game it is not surprising that fights often break out!
As with all sports, the athlete must be fit for the game in hand. This includes cardiovascular fitness, which will enable your heart, lungs and circulatory system to provide enough oxygen to the working muscles to maintain a high level of work for long periods. You must also possess the muscle strength and endurance required to produce repeated contractions over this same period. All of this should be achieved through regular training, which is specific to the sport.
Common Hockey Injuries
The most common injuries in ice hockey are due to collisions, which cause injuries such as concussions and lacerations. Other common musculoskeletal injuries include:
Medial ligament sprain
The medial collateral ligament of the knee is commonly injured in ice hockey due to collisions from the outside. This force coming from the outside of the body stretches and often tears the medial ligament on the inside of the knee. Ligament sprains are graded from 1-3 with 3 being a complete rupture of the ligament. Learn more about medial ligament sprains.
Knee cartilage injuries are also common in ice hockey due to the rotational forces placed on the knee when turning. Damage is usually to one of the menisci (rings of cartilage sitting on top of the Tibia, within the knee joint). These injuries are often associated with damage to other structures, especially the medial collateral ligament when the medial meniscus is torn. Find out more about cartilage injuries.
A hamstring strain, or pulled hamstring, is a common injury across all sports. The usual mechanism of a hamstring injury is during a short burst of speed, whether it be running or skating. The hamstrings are placed under most strain whilst they act to decelerate the forward movement of the lower leg. Learn more about hamstring strains.
Shoulder injuries happen most regularly as a result of collision with another player. Shoulder dislocations usually occur when the player falls onto an outstretched hand, producing an anterior shoulder dislocation. All shoulder dislocations should be reduced ('popped back in') as soon as possible, but only by a medical professional and usually following an x-ray to check for other associated injuries. The arm should then be immobilised for a short period. Learn more about shoulder dislocations.
AC joint separation
This is another common shoulder injury, which occurs most regularly from falling onto the point of the shoulder. The injury is due to tears of the acromioclavicular ligament and possibly also the coracoclavicular ligament, in more severe cases. The most obvious symptom is a step deformity, where the clavicle is raised, producing a bony lump on top of the shoulder. Find out more about AC joint separations.