Hockey is a sport that’s known for its fast pace and fierce competition just as much as it’s known for its brutal hits and fights. For players and hockey fans alike, a few bumps and bruises (and more than a few missing teeth) are just a part of the game. While many believe that high speed hits are inextricably entwined in the sport of hockey, it’s still important for those who play the game to stay safe. In that spirit, the physicians and staff at Resurgens Orthopaedics would like to share with you some of the most common neck and back injuries we see in hockey players and a few tips on how you may be able to prevent them.
Lower Back Pain
Most hockey players adopt a forward-leaning posture that gives them better balance when skating and better control of the puck. That posture, coupled with the normal stresses involved with skating and the frequent rotation of the spine that occurs when shooting, puts a lot of stress on the muscles and discs of the lower back. In addition, whenever a hit leaves you sprawled out on the ice, your lower back tends to take the brunt of that force.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict how other players will hit you or which way you’ll fall when they do, so the best thing you can do to prevent muscle injuries is follow a regimen of strength training and stretches that targets muscles in the lower back to keep your spine stable. Your doctor can give you advice about exercises specifically designed for hockey players, and while it’s difficult to prevent trauma to the lower spine and vertebral discs while playing hockey, be aware that sharp pain, numbness, or tingling in the lower back or legs could be indicative of a herniated disc or other more serious problems.
While these are less common in hockey than run-of-the mill back pain, they should be of great concern to every hockey player. Not only can fractures of the spine be painful, if the spinal cord is severed during a fracture, it could lead to paralysis or even death. You already know hockey is a brutal sport, so never step on the ice without full pads and a helmet. Also remember to regularly inspect your equipment to ensure it will be able to protect you from trauma. One more thing: a workout regimen designed to improve strength and flexibility in the neck, back, and core can reduce deflection of the spine during hits, so working out those muscles should absolutely be a priority for any hockey player, amateur or professional.
Hockey is about as competitive as sports get, and things can definitely get rough out there on the ice. If you play hockey, it’s crucial that you visit your doctor regularly so you can ensure minor injuries to the neck and back don’t become more serious over time. One more thing to remember: there’s no shame in sitting out a few games if something doesn’t feel right. When you have an injury, staying off the ice will give you time to heal fully. After all, a serious spine injury is not something to be taken lightly, and if you focus on your health, your hockey career will last a lot longer.