Studies show that most hockey injuries occur during games rather than practices. It is estimated that direct trauma (a sudden forceful injury) accounts for 80% of all injuries. Most of these injuries are caused by player contact (checking and collision), falls, and contact with a puck, high stick, and occasionally, a skate blade.
Good equipment is only the starting point to safer ice hockey. Because of the contact nature of ice hockey, it is considered a collision sport. Injuries occur from contact with other players, the stick, the puck, and the boards. Non-contact injuries may occur from overuse or acute trauma.
Each year, more than 63,000 hockey-related injuries are treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, and hospital emergency rooms. The risk of injury cannot be completely eliminated, but most injuries are mild, and may include bruises, muscle pulls, ligament tears, and cuts. More serious injuries are rare, and may include broken teeth, concussions, broken bones, dislocations, and spine or spinal cord injuries.
In an effort to reduce hockey injuries, researchers have conducted studies to better understand the risks of play. Rule changes and better enforcement of existing rules, along with improved protective equipment, are some of the outcomes of this research. In addition, educating coaches and officials about injury risks has become a priority. Potentially dangerous actions, such as checking from behind and the using the stick or helmet as a weapon, have been eliminated from the game.
Coaches, athletes, and parents must be aware of the possible injuries and follow the rules in place to prevent them. Serious injuries can be avoided if players avoid dangerous tactics or overly aggressive play.