If you watch hockey, you know that injuries are common.
In professional sports, player injury reports often are vague — described only as “upper body” or “lower body”.
Dharmesh Vyas, MD, PhD, an orthopaedic surgeon with UPMC Sports Medicine and the head team doctor for the Pittsburgh Penguins®, discusses common hockey injuries, including treatment and prevention.
For more information visit UPMSportsMedicine.com or call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).
Upper Body Injuries vs. Lower Body Injuries in Hockey
Upper body injuries can include everything from head injuries to shoulder dislocations and elbow, wrist, and hand injuries. Lower body injuries, meanwhile, can include leg and ankle injuries, hip injuries, and lower back issues.
Common Upper Body Injuries and Treatment Options
Upper body injuries are defined as injuries that occur above the waist.
While most upper body injuries in hockey occur in the hands and wrists,other common upper body injuries:
- Shoulder injuries, including shoulder separations and torn labrums
- Broken collarbones
- Elbow injuries, including bursitis
- Facial injuries, including chipped teeth, cuts, and bruises
Treatment for upper body injuries varies depending on the severity and location of the injury.
Sometimes an injured player may consult a medical professional on the bench or head to the locker room for a more complete evaluation. The player may get treatment and return to the ice — this is most common with something like a cut that only requires stitches.
More severe injuries may require the player to sit out the rest of the game and seek additional treatment in the coming days. The most severe injuries may require a player to be seen at a local hospital.
Common Lower Body Injuries and Treatment
Common lower body injuries — those that occur below the waist, particularly the legs or lower back, include:
- Knee ligament sprains and tears
- Meniscus injuries
- Lower back injuries, including strains and pulled muscles
- Hip labrum injuries
- Groin / sports hernias
- Ankle sprains and broken bones
Treatment for these lower body injuries depends on severity. For strains and pulled muscles, players often are told to rest, stretch gently, and work their way back to full play.
Injuries such as broken bones or torn ligaments may require surgery, casting, or bracing.
Once a player has a cast removed or has recovered from surgery, a specialized physical therapy program will help them return safely to the ice.
At all levels, hockey injuries are often the result of playing a high-speed, collision sport. However, other contributing factors include lack of rest, inadequate nutrition, inadequate strength and conditioning, and overuse.
Preventing Upper and Lower Body Injuries
One of the easiest ways to safeguard against potential injuries is through proper conditioning, both on and off the ice. Engaging in off-season training on dryland as well as on-ice training ensures that players are in proper shape to play safely.
“Dryland training that focuses on strengthening the lower back, pelvic core, and hip adductors may help prevent common injuries that can result from improper mechanics and poor conditioning,” says Dr. Vyas.
In addition to proper conditioning and practice, the right equipment can help prevent injuries.
“Good quality equipment that fits well is one of the best ways to avoid injury,” adds Dr. Vyas.
Tips to Prevent Injuries in Hockey
- Do not use equipment that is outdated, improperly repaired, or ill-fitting
- Fully understand and play by the correct rules for your age and skill level
- Maintain proper hydration and nutrition before, during, and after play
- Take time to stretch and warm up muscles before each game
The experts at UPMC Sports Medicine treat and manage hockey injuries in players of any skill levels, helping them recover and safely return to their sport.