What Are The Injury Risks For Your Young Hockey Player?

Is ice hockey the toughest, most dangerous sport? It’s not a hard argument to make. Hockey makes intense physical demands on players—and has a reputation for a high injury rate. But the injury rates for young hockey players—compared to other sports—may surprise you.

The fluid teamwork of hockey players as they move skillfully across the ice is an exciting and beautiful spectacle to watch. Hockey demands strength, explosive speed, endurance, and high levels of physical conditioning and coordination. It’s characterized as a high-speed collision game with high rates of injury. So how dangerous is it for your child?

High-speed collision sports are played with a lot of contact between players and objects—like rink boards and the unyielding ice on which the game is played. Hockey is the fastest of the team sports, with professional athletes reaching speeds of 60 miles per hour. These players wield clubs in their hands and blades on their feet. No wonder that ice hockey is perceived as one of the most dangerous sports. However, parents may be reassured to learn that at the youth level, hockey injuries are less common than in other youth sports, including football, basketball, and soccer.

According to data collected by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System in 2011, here’s how the number of player emergency room (ER) visits compares between sports for players between the ages of 12 and 17:

    • Football: 8 of every 100 players suffered an injury requiring ER treatment
    • Basketball: 4 in every 100 players were treated in the ER
    • Soccer: 3 ER visits per 100 athletes
    • Hockey: 2 of every 100 players took a trip to the ER with an injury

The most common hockey-related injuries are relatively minor:

    • Bruises
    • Strains
    • Sprains

Do these statistics surprise you? There are a number of reasons for the low injury rate in youth hockey. Players are outfitted in effective protective gear, including face masks and helmets. Because this sport requires skating skill, children receive a significant amount of training; their skills develop gradually and enable them to compete more safely. Many hockey injuries result from body checking, a practice that is not allowed at the youth level.

However, as athletes mature and move into collegiate competition, the injury risk increases. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness followed the injury rate of college players over a six-year period. Sprains and strains continue to be common, accounting for 40 percent of athlete injuries. Collegiate players sustain the most injuries to their heads, necks, and faces, which explains why concussions are the second most common injury, representing 13 percent of hockey injuries. Knee joint injuries are also a concern.

Researchers found that injury risks at the collegiate level are higher during games than during practice, and that the greatest risk occurs during the second period. The position you play also affects your risk. Goalies and defensemen sustain fewer injuries than forwards.

At Summit, we follow the studies that track ice hockey injuries to better understand how they can be prevented. We’re here to treat you or your child when hockey injuries occur, but we are also committed to providing education and training that prevent these sports injuries before they happen.

Sports medicine: Expert bone, joint, and muscle care

From Olympians to pro athletes to youth sports and those that just want to be more active – Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.

Start your journey to a more active self: Find your sports medicine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at 651-968-5201 to schedule a sports medicine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.

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