Safety Tips: Hockey
With non-stop action and high-speed team play, hockey is a great sport for kids. Sometimes called "the fastest game on ice," it's a great way to get exercise, and with youth and adult programs throughout the country, chances are no matter what your child's age or skill level, there is a league near you to play in.
As fun as it is, though, hockey carries a very real risk of injury. To keep your kids as safe as possible, follow these tips.
Why Hockey Safety Is Important
At its highest levels, from high school to college to the NHL, hockey allows "checking," an action that involves a player colliding with an opposing player to stop his forward momentum. This can lead to numerous injuries from players hitting one another or colliding with the ice surface or the boards that line the rink. Even in so-called "no-check" leagues, there will always be a lot of contact. Falls are very common, and ice is just as hard as concrete to land on.
In addition, with every player carrying a stick and wearing sharpened skates, accidents are bound to occur. There's also a good chance that sooner or later kids will get hit by the puck, which is made of hard rubber and can leave a nasty bruise if it catches them in the wrong spot. And, since hockey involves strenuous physical activity, pulled muscles and sprains are a hazard for players who don't warm up and stretch properly.
Getting In Gear
Before kids start playing hockey, it's very important to get them all the right equipment and make sure they know how to put it on and use it correctly. Skates and a helmet are a good place to start, but there is a lot more they'll need to wear to keep themselves safe.
Never let your child play a game of hockey without:
- Helmet — When it comes to preventing serious injuries, this is the most important piece of equipment. Helmets should be certified by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) and should include a full facemask with a protective chin cup and a chin strap. Make sure to get your kids a helmet that fits properly, and insist that they always keep the chin strap fastened and tightened to ensure that the helmet stays in place.
- Skates — As with helmets, be sure to get your kids skates that fit well. They're going to lace them up tight, so the wrong size skates can really hurt their feet. Skates should offer plenty of ankle support and have a steel or hard plastic toe cup. It's also important to keep skates sharp so they perform better and are less likely to get caught in ruts in the ice.
- Shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee and shin pads — These are all specific to hockey. Soccer or lacrosse equipment won't give the protection needed. Lower leg (knee and shin) pads should have a hard plastic exterior and reach the top of your child's skates.
- Hockey pants — Also called breezers, these should reach to the knee and offer padding in the front, rear, and sides of the upper legs and midsection.
- Gloves — Another sport-specific item, hockey gloves should allow for mobility while protecting well past the wrist.
- Athletic supporter and cup — These are incorporated into most hockey undershorts these days but can also come from other sports.
- Neck protector — Although some leagues don't require them, neck protectors are helpful at guarding against wayward hockey sticks and skate blades.
- Mouth guard — These not only protect the teeth, but also the lips, cheeks, and tongue, and can help prevent head and neck injuries such as concussions and jaw fractures.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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