Ice hockey is an exciting, fast-paced and physical game, and injuries are common at all levels of participation. Most injuries are the result of direct trauma — player vs. player; players hitting the ice, boards or glass; or players being struck by pucks or sticks. Consequently, rules, designed to decrease the injury rate, have been introduced.
The most common hockey injuries — soft-tissue contusions (bruises) and muscle strains — do not cause players to loose much game time. Ligament sprains of the knee, primarily involving the medial collateral ligament, also occur. Ankle sprains are less common due to the skate’s protective nature.
Facial lacerations were once very common in youth hockey. However, facial protection has been worn by goalies since the 1950s. Facial protection featuring wire cages and polycarbonate face shields was introduced for use in position players in the late 1970s and has been mandatory since the 1980s. This equipment and rule change has greatly decreased the number of facial lacerations. (show picture of facemask types) (show examples of facial and eye injury)
Eye injuries are also common for children’s participation sports. Mandatory use of head and facial protection has decreased the incidence of ocular, or eye, injuries. Unfortunately, many kids do not wear their helmets and facial protection when playing hockey in other settings, such as backyard rinks or frozen lakes. Kids should be encouraged to wear appropriate protective equipment whenever they play hockey — regardless of where they play.
This protective equipment includes:
Helmet with facial protection
Protective cup (males)
Full equipment, including shoulder pads and pants, should be worn for any organized hockey activity.
Concussions are being seen more frequently in ice hockey. A child who suffers a head injury should be evaluated to determine whether it is safe for him or her to return to play. Returning to activity before the resolution of the head injury puts the athlete at risk for a second injury or, in the worst case, death due to second impact syndrome.
Rule enforcement is also important for reducing the risk of injury. The stick is supposed to be used to control the puck. Unfortunately, it is also used to slash, trip, hook and even spear — pressing the tip of the stick blade into an opponent’s body.
Players are more likely to be injured due to foul play than fair play. Parents and coaches are responsible for teaching kids how to play the game within the rules. Officials are responsible for enforcing the rules. Strict rule enforcement should decrease the likelihood of injury.