Stay Cool as Ice: 7 Ice Hockey Tips to Prevent Injury
Hockey players will tell you there’s no sport greater than ice hockey. Those who play genuinely love the game and enjoy the toughness and challenge of their time on the rink. Ice hockey isn’t for the faint of heart, however. It’s a full-contact sport, and even for kids, it’s essential to follow ice hockey tips to prevent injury during play.
Now, any parent of a hockey player, no matter their age, knows that once someone falls in love with the game, it’s hard to get them off their skates. Like football, the best way to prevent injuries during ice hockey is to plan and take proper precautions because players will play.
At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we want to help your hockey player stay safe all season long. Should an injury occur, we’ll be here to get them back on their blades as soon as possible. But in the meantime, follow these ice hockey tips to prevent injury before, during, and after play.
1. Always Wear Proper Gear
No matter the sport, proper gear is crucial. Most injuries are preventable, with helmets, padding, and reliable footwear. Hockey gear includes mouthguards, gloves, athletic supporters, full padding, and of course, head and face protection. Before any player hits the ice, they should absolutely have on all their gear, every single time.
Fast pucks and wayward sticks cause many hockey injuries. The most common injuries are bruises, especially to the lower extremities and these are often preventable with the right padding and gear. Head injuries like lacerations are prevented with helmets and face masks and gloves help keep fingers and hands safe during falls.
Skates should lace-up from the toe. Go through all the laces and tighten the hockey skate up to keep the foot completely stable. This ensures ankle and foot protection to prevent ankle injuries, which can also be a vulnerability during ice hockey play.
2. Practice Regularly
Hockey players should practice even during the offseason. Many times, younger players take months off of the ice to enjoy other sports. While cross-training is an excellent idea, injuries can occur when players get back on the ice after a break.
Over the summer months, young players can grow out of their safety gear. They may backslide on their proper form and become lax on their best practices. Muscles that keep the body stable on the ice can weaken, leaving players more prone to injury.
Keep your hockey player healthy by having them keep up their skating skills even during the offseason. Encourage regular practice and physical activity. Promote cross-training to help them build other muscle groups, increase stamina, and boost endurance in time to hit the ice.
3. Listen to the Coaches’ Ice Hockey Tips for Safety
Always listen to coaches when playing any sport. Hockey coaches are trained experts who understand how to follow the game rules and keep their players safe. Often when injuries occur, it’s because someone breaks the rules or does something they aren’t supposed to do (like body checking an opponent).
Coaches will instruct players on how to move quickly on the ice while remaining stable. They’ll help ice hockey players build their skills and coordination. They will also teach them how to stay alert and the importance of being aware of everything going on around them on the ice.
When the stands are full of cheering fans during gameplay, it can be tough to remember the safety protocols. Players should listen to their coaches’ tips for ice hockey injury prevention to ensure they stay safe even amongst distractions and the heightened excitement of a game.
4. Warmup Before Hitting the Ice
Players should always warmup before they hit the ice. Warmups can be as much of a mindset adjustment as a physical injury prevention strategy. When players shift their mentality into “game mode,” they’ll be ready to play safely and to listen to their bodies.
Hockey players should take some time to skate around the ice and get their bearings. They should make sure everything is fitted correctly and their gear feels comfortable before they get on the rink to play. Players should also warm up by exploring the ice if any issues need to be taken care of before the game.
During warmup, stretch, hydrate, and pay attention to instructions. In any game, warmup is a crucial component, but it’s especially vital during ice hockey. Don’t skip out on the chance to shift into the right mentality before the game.
5. Engage in Sportsmanlike Behavior
Ice hockey players are known for their toughness and “take no prisoners” attitude. Unfortunately, actions like body checking and fighting are often how ice hockey injuries occur. One of the most essential ice hockey tips to prevent injury is always to use sportsmanlike behavior on and off the ice.
Hockey players should be encouraged to follow the rules and watch out for their fellow players (even on the opposing team). Sharp blades, slick surfaces, and fast pucks can lead to serious injury, but most hockey injuries are avoidable if everyone behaves with kindness and care.
Remember that safety is everyone’s responsibility. It’s crucial in a team sport to look out for each other and be a good teammate.
6. Stay Healthy Off the Ice as Well
Another ice hockey safety tip is to live a healthy lifestyle. Many hockey injuries occur because players are distracted, tired, fatigued, and inattentive. Getting plenty of sleep and hydration will keep everyone alert when they’re on the ice.
Similarly, following a healthy diet will help keep players strong and fit. Your body needs plenty of protein to build muscle and a variety of fruits and vegetables for vitamins. Eat a variety of healthy foods to keep up your energy and stamina as you go for the goal.
Exercise is also vital to staying fit for gameplay. Players that cross-train with cardio, weight training, and even yoga can avoid injury by keeping their bodies healthy and flexible. Cross-training helps you build new muscle and strengthen your body for dynamic movement. Stay fit both on and off the ice to avoid injuries during ice hockey.
7. Be Prepared to Treat Injuries
From beginner to high school to pro, ice hockey carries some risks with play at any level. As a contact sport played on blades in icy conditions, the risks can range from bruises to ankle damage to more severe injuries like concussions and spinal injuries.
Each team should have dedicated professionals trained in the basics of first aid and safety. Keep a stocked first aid kit on hand and include emergency contact information for all players.
Should an injury occur, time is often critical. Encourage your child not to “play through the pain” and to report discomfort to their coach immediately for assessment.
At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we’re here to help with any orthopedic injury that occurs during sport. Contact us right away to schedule an evaluation so that we can get you back on the ice.