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Hockey Injuries

USWNR Orthopedics

At the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center, we work specifically with growing athletes. Our sole focus is to help your athlete play, excel and enjoy the sports they love, including ice hockey, and sustain a lifetime of sport participation.

With a fast-paced and hard-hitting style, ice hockey’s appeal has led to its increasing popularity as a youth sport, especially in the Kansas City area. However, the characteristics that make ice hockey appealing, also put players at risk for injuries whether hitting the boards, the ice and other players. Injuries are common, even in leagues where checking is not allowed.

Why are we experts at caring for growing athletes who play hockey?

To best care for this unique population of fast-paced and aggressive athletes, the experts at the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center specialize in treating growing athletes with hockey injuries.

What is hockey’s impact on the body?

There are more than 500,000 registered amateur hockey players in the United States alone. With players skating at speeds more than 30 miles per hour (mph) and rubber pucks racing by at speeds up to 100 mph, it is no surprise that getting hurt can become “part of the game.” In addition, cuts from sharp skate blades, collisions with other players and falls on the ice can lead to concussions, bone, ligament and joint injuries.

What are common hockey injuries?

A concussion is a brain injury usually caused by a sudden jolt or a blow to the head or neck. This can occur from a puck or stick to the head, whiplash injury or when the head strikes the ice during a fall.

An athlete does not need to be knocked out or have memory loss to have suffered a concussion. In fact, most athletes who suffer a sports-related concussion do not lose consciousness. Concussion remains the most common injury suffered by hockey players and can occur with vague symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and emotional irritability.

Using mandatory helmets and face masks protect players from the risk of brain bleeds and skull fractures. Parents should also ensure that equipment fits well and is properly fastened. Teaching your athlete to follow the rules with “safe play” and avoiding direct head contact can also help to minimize risk.

Learn more about concussion treatment

Injury to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) of the knee is the second-most common injury in hockey. The MCL injury occurs when the ligament on the inner part of the knee stretches or tears. Although painful, this injury usually does not require surgery, and a player can typically return to the ice within weeks to months depending on the severity.

Growing athletes should be checked by a pediatric sports medicine physician to rule out an injury to other ligaments within the knee. Athletes with a damaged MCL often experience pain, which can be followed by swelling within 24 hours. For sudden knee injuries, athletes should see a pediatric sports medicine physician.

Injuries to the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) and clavicle (collarbone) frequently occur when a player is “checked,” shoved against the boards or falls on the ice. Fortunately, these injuries do not commonly require surgery but should be evaluated by a sports medicine physician to determine the appropriate treatment and minimize lost playing time.

Seek immediate medical care when the collarbone appears deformed or if the athlete indicates the shoulder is “out of socket.” These indicate serious joint abnormalities that require immediate treatment or rehabilitation.

A burner or stinger is an injury to the nerves that travels from the neck down the arm. Also known as brachial plexus injuries, stingers usually are caused by stretching the head away from the arm. This injury happens in hockey when a player attempts to make a hit on another player and turns the head at the last second – causing a stretch in the nerves of the neck and shoulder.

Symptoms on one side of the body* include:

  • Intense pain from the neck down the arm

  • Burning or stinging

  • Numbness, and/or tingling down arm

  • Weakness

*If symptoms ever occur on both sides of your athlete's body, seek immediate attention by a health care provider.

The one-sided symptoms may be obvious or subtle, lasting a few seconds or a few minutes, or in some cases, much longer. While symptoms are present, also watch for possible signs of concussion. Do not allow your athlete to return to play until symptoms have completely resolved. This would include full range of motion and strength on the injured side matches that of the non-injured side. If the symptoms persist, your athlete should see a pediatric sports medicine physician before resuming practice or competition.

Although the height of an athlete's hockey skate offers protection against the typical “ankle sprain,” the high speeds and rapid direction changes that occur while skating places the ankle at a higher risk for torque injuries and “high ankle sprains.” This injury often leads to the greatest loss of playing time due to the long-healing process. The high ankle sprain may need a walking boot or cast and can be associated with fractures. The sprain should be evaluated by a pediatric sports medicine physician.

Bumps, bruises, twists and muscle strains can affect all areas of the body. Recommended treatment includes:

  • Protect the area with a sling or crutches, if necessary.

  • Rest the injured area.

  • Ice the injury for 20 minutes at a time. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin.

  • Compress the injured area with a wrap. Do not pull tightly, as this can cut off circulation.

  • Elevate the injured area above the heart, if possible.

If your athlete has any of these injuries, the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center has a team of pediatric sports medicine experts ready to get your growing athlete back on the ice. Call (816) 701-HURT (4878) to schedule an appointment.

Tips for parents and coaches

Regardless of the level at which a growing athlete is playing, wearing appropriate protective equipment is the best defense against injury.

At a minimum, your athlete should wear:

  • A helmet and face mask with a mouthguard
  • Shoulder, elbow and shin pads
  • Padded hockey pants
  • Gloves
  • An athletic supporter

Simply wearing the right equipment has dramatically reduced the risk of eye and dental injuries and lacerations (cuts), which are commonly associated with ice hockey.

Make sure your athlete stays hydrated. Athletes need to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after activity. Also, make sure they get plenty of rest and avoid overdoing it. Keep sports fun and positive!

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