As fun and exciting as hockey can be, there is still the risk of injury, including the risk of concussion. In fact, a recent study found that ice hockey has the second highest incidence of concussion among prominent high school sports. While there’s increasing awareness about concussion risk in football, it’s still a little known fact that there are nearly just as many concussions in ice hockey
In youth ice hockey, the risk is even higher. In fact, among 12-14 year olds, the risk of concussion is 2.4 times higher than it is among 15-18 year olds. Most concussions are the result of player-to-player contact, with 43 percent occurring as a result of illegal contact.
To stay safe on the ice and help minimize the risk of concussion, follow these tips:
Avoid Risky or Aggressive Play
The most recent policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends delaying the introduction of body checking until the age of 15. Youth leagues that allow body checking have higher concussion rates than those that do not.
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Always Wear a Helmet
Even though a helmet can’t prevent concussion, it can help to minimize the risk of concussion, as well as the risk of skull fracture.
Teach Players to Obey the Rules and Enforce Penalties
Dr. Anthony Kontos, the research director of UPMC’s Sports Medicine Program said, “Better enforcement of existing penalties for illegal hits – especially those from behind when players are less able to protect themselves – may help to limit concussion in youth ice hockey.”
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Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Concussion
Knowing the symptoms of a concussion is important for players, coaches, and parents in helping to identify potential concussions. Symptoms can include severe headache, dizziness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and in some cases recurrent vomiting.
After a Suspected Concussion, Remove the Athlete From Play
The athlete should be immediately removed from play until cleared by a medical professional trained in concussion management and treatment. Once an injury occurs the brain is in an extremely vulnerable state and more susceptible to additional injury. If ever in doubt about a concussion, always sit it out.
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.