With the regular season kicking off tonight, Dr. Kenton Fibel, Sports Medicine Physician, answers your questions on hockey injuries in this week’s installment of Ask the Expert.
Q1. What causes most hockey related injuries?
Ice hockey is a unique sport in which it combines power and physicality while also requiring agility and speed. This creates an environment where you see a variety of injuries with the most common cause of injuries being from body checking. Injuries are also caused simply due to the demands of ice skating leading to hip and other soft tissue strains/sprains as well as from contact with a hockey stick, ice skate, or puck.
Q2. What are the most common hockey injuries?
A wide range of injuries can occur in ice hockey. Injuries to the head, neck, and face region account for 20-30% of injuries with lacerations, dental injuries, and concussions being the most common. Common upper extremity injuries include acromioclavicular (AC) joint separations, shoulder dislocations, and fractures. Lower extremity injuries also compromise approximately 20-30% of injuries and commonly involve the hip joint or muscles of the hip/pelvic girdle. Knee injuries sustained in ice hockey are much more likely to be a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain or meniscus tear as opposed to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, which is much less common in this sport. The number of females playing ice hockey has also been increasing over the years with similar injury rates as men being reported. The most common injuries in females are strains/sprains of the lower extremities although concussions may be the most common injury at higher levels of play.
Q3. What are some ways to prevent injury on the ice?
Although injuries from ice hockey cannot always be prevented, steps can be taken to help reduce the risk of injury. The first step that can be taken is to make sure that the hockey equipment fits appropriately and is not damaged. Additionally, it is important that parents and coaches encourage the players to play the game in accordance to the rules- showing respect for the game and each other through the display of good sportsmanship and avoiding reckless play. Lastly, players should continually work on improving technique whether it is skating, body checking, or shooting and should participate in off-and-on ice training in order to increase strength and skills.
Q4. What is the importance of a preseason checkup from a physician?
A preseason checkup from a physician is important for any sport, including ice hockey, in order to identify injuries that the player may not be fully recovered from and also to detect strength deficits or other risk factors that may be modifiable and, if addressed, may decrease the player’s chance of sustaining an injury.
Dr. Kenton Fibel is a Sports Medicine Physician at Hospital for Special Surgery. He completed a Sports Medicine fellowship at HSS where he served as an assistant team physician for several sports teams including the New York Giants, New York Mets, and several local high school football teams. Dr. Fibel has an interest in caring for athletes who play a variety of sports and has an appreciation for the demands of higher level athletics. His expertise lies in his conservative, non-surgical approach to sports-related injuries including those that are acute, chronic, or from overuse.