by Dr. Lauren Bachand, DPT and Jared Ferreira, ATC
Hockey is ranked in the top 6 most popular sports in the US, and in high school alone, there are over 45,000 players each season. As a highly physical sport, athletes can be prone to injuries, and in any given season over 20% of players will sustain an injury, requiring them to miss game time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play due to fear of an injury. Research on assessing the risk of injury is always developing, and new preventative measure can be put in place to help decrease your risk of an injury.
Below are the most common injuries seen on the ice, and stay tuned for next weeks article on injury prevention tips.
Positions on the ice No matter their position, each player must learn to use large planes of motion, especially from their hips, back, and shoulders. Players also require various amounts of strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility to use in a game.
Players positioned as a forward tend to be on the receiving end of contact from other players. They must have speed, endurance, and the ability to take various shots from different angles on the ice while avoiding contact with the boards or other players. Typically, this position can put stress on players shoulders, low back, and hips.
As a defenseman, it’s important for players to focus on strength and endurance because they tend to initiate the most contact with other players. Defensemen are typically on the ice for 50% of the game whereas forwards are only on for about 35%, meaning defensemen are more likely to fatigue in a game making them the most prone to injuries.
Goaltenders need to be highly flexible and have a wide range of motion, especially around the hips and low back, and they must have great quadricep strength to remain in a deep squat position to stay within the goal. Goalies must be agile with quick side to side movements and slides, and good core stabilization to stay upright while shots are fired their way.
Frequent Injuries As a high contact sport, and with the various amounts of strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility that players use, injuries can occur frequently and at any time during play. In fact, during a game over 50% of all injuries will result from contact with another player. Typically, injuries will happen at the end of the game during the 3rd period. This is due to cardiovascular and muscle fatigue leading to diminished reaction time.
Some of the most common injuries are seen in the shoulder, hip and thigh, head and neck, and the knee.
Shoulder Shoulder and clavicular injuries to the SC (sternoclavicular), and AC (acromioclavicular) are the most common. Clavicular (AC, SC) joint injuries can include fractures, sprains, dislocations, and subluxations. They are typically due to direct contact and trauma, through checking, body contact, or direct contact with the boards or ice. Scapular dyskinesia and rotator cuff injuries can typically happen from overuse with stick handling and shooting which is common in forwards.
Hip and thigh Groin and adductor strains are common due to the requirement of cutting, pivoting, and direction changes of a sharp-edged surface on a low-friction surface while skating over the ice. Hockey players constantly use the outer and inner groin muscles to propel themselves forward and backward on the ice. Injuries can occur with miss-stepping while skating, weakness of the muscles, direct player contact, and generalized overuse. Quadriceps and hamstring can commonly have contusions from contact from sticks and pucks. Goalies tend to have more hip injuries including labral tears due to high demand for flexibility and strength required to play the position well.
Head and neck injuries Concussions, whiplash, and muscle strains are common due to direct body contact or contact with the boards and ice. Concussions are more likely to re-occur if the player returns to the ice prematurely. It is important for a player to be cleared by their appropriate healthcare provider, whether that be an MD, ATC (athletic trainer) or PT (Physical therapist). Concussions, especially in players with multiple head injuries, can be a career ending injury if not properly treated. It can also cause a decline in school, other sports, and social capabilities due to a lack of focus, irritability, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, headaches, and impaired balance.
It is important for hockey players to have adequate strength of the neck and shoulder/scapular muscles in order to reduce and absorb impact forces to the head.
Knee Anterior cruciate ligament sprains (ACL) and Medial Collateral ligament sprains (MCL) are typically provoked by direct impact from the outside of the knee. Meniscus tears can occur from the player in squatting positing with twisting and pivoting motions or with direct contact.
Although these injuries can become serious, they dont have to keep you from playing hockey. Check out next weeks article on injury prevention tips so you can hit the ice safely and increase your awareness on preventing injuries.
Dr. Lauren Bachand, PT, DPT, clinic director and a physical therapist at our Attleboro location is both dry needling and manual therapy certified from Evidence in Motion. She has expertise in orthopedics, post-surgical rehabilitation, sports injuries, balance disorders, and injury prevention, as well as in working with pediatric patients.
Jarred Ferreira, ATC, LAT, works as an athletic trainer and has certifications in First Responder CPR, AED, and First Aid, and Bloodborne Pathogens, and has completed Heads Up to Clinicians Concussion Training. Ferreira is comfortable rehabbing sports injuries, providing injury prevention, emergency care, and first aid. He is also well-versed in concussion testing, taping and bracing, biomechanical analysis, equipment fitting, strength and conditioning, and fitness training and testing.