• Health & Wellness

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Hockey safety tips

From peewees to the pros as well as the 2022 Winter Olympics, this is the heart of hockey season. Like all sports, there is always a risk of getting injured.

Dr. Michael J. Stuart, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon, is chief medical and safety officer for USA Hockey and team physician for U.S. Men's Hockey at the Olympics. He has several tips for hockey players to avoid getting hurt on the ice.

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"There's risk of injury in any sport, including the sport of ice hockey," says Dr. Stuart. "It's played on a very slippery and very hard surface in a confined space because of the boards and the glass. And it utilizes frozen, galvanized, rubber pucks; sticks; and also razor-sharp skates."

Injury prevention is a multifaceted approach that includes training, proper equipment, education, and body contact and control skills. Stretching and strength training, particularly in the hips, legs and core, is not only important for performance, but also to avoid injury.

"We do see some muscle/tendon injuries in the sport of ice hockey, in large part because of the skating stride. The most common locations would be the groin or the hip flexor," says Dr. Stuart.

Like many contact sports, concussions are a concern.

"The hockey helmet is effective to prevent trauma to the skull, like a fracture or an intracranial hemorrhage or bleed. The hockey helmet does not necessarily prevent a concussion," says Dr. Stuart.

Instead, players and coaches should focus on body contact and control skills so that players don't crash into the boards or other players in an unprotected position. Enforcing the rules of the game and fostering an environment of mutual respect with opponents is key to making the sport safer.

"Promoting that sportsmanship, where you don't take advantage of a vulnerable player. You actually hold up on maybe a violent hit, which could result in an injury," says Dr. Stuart.

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