Hockey’s a physical sport and injuries sometimes happen, especially as we get older.
Although there’s really no way to completely prevent injuries, there are things you can do to play safe and stay engaged if you find yourself on the sideline.
Having logged more than 20 years as a certified trainer, USA Hockey Manager of Player Safety Kevin Margarucci has seen it all when it comes to hockey-related injuries. He offers these five things for you to focus on, and how to move past an injury, in hopes of enjoying a fun-filled, injury-free season.
Watch the beer and wings diet
Nutrition plays a big role in staying healthy, which means you should be keeping tabs on the number of beer-and-wings “training” meals you and your teammates consume all year long.
“When you participate in sports, your body needs the right fuel and hydration levels to function at its optimal level,” said Margarucci, who’s worked on staff at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and has more than 35 years of experience as a player, coach, official and certified athletic trainer. “I’m talking year-long nutrition, not just eating well on game days or during the season.”
The majority of the work, he says, is put in during practice, the offseason, and even while you’re playing other sports.
“Proper nutrition and hydration help you perform and train at a higher level and reduce fatigue which can ultimately lead to injuries,” Margarucci said. “If your body isn’t fueled properly for training, the benefits won’t be there when the puck drops.”
Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep are essential to keeping off the sideline. These each help fuel your body, aid in recovery, and help fight fatigue – all of which will decrease your chances of getting injured.
Staying fit with off-ice training
With many teams limited in terms of ice time, off-ice training has become increasingly important, and can be a huge benefit to players of all skill levels.
“Off-ice training can be done virtually anywhere, and it can be done for free, even with very little equipment available,” Margarucci said. “It’s a great adjunct to building overall athleticism, which directly translates into skill development and on-ice performance.
“I’d encourage everyone to take advantage of this time, and put as much effort into off-ice training as you do your time on the ice.”
Margarucci said off-ice training includes appropriate pre-game and practice warmups, as well as post-activity cooldowns. A proper dynamic warmup ensures that you’re ready for whatever physical activity that lies ahead. Meanwhile, a good post-activity cooldown aids in muscle recovery, and helps flush waste from your body, too. Doing both of these on a regular basis can decrease your risk of injury throughout the season.
Stay active away from the rink
Participate in more than one sport. By being a multi-sport athlete – even as an adult – you’ll experience whole-body athletic development and a reduced risk from overuse injuries.
Tennis, racquetball, shooting hoops, swimming, bicycling – try something new!
Get a lid that fits
Margarucci said the majority of hockey-related eye, facial and dental injuries are preventable.
“Make sure that your helmet fits properly, and that you’re wearing a facemask and a mouthguard, too,” he said. “By doing so, your risk of injury is drastically reduced.”
Wearing equipment that’s the right size (and in good condition) will ensure that you’re protected as best as you can be. Equipment that’s too big or too small won’t protect you from the impacts that might occur, and trying to save money by wearing the wrong size gear because it was on sale creates bad training habits and leaves you more vulnerable to injury.
Promote mutual respect and sportsmanship
It’s one of the most important things you can do – at any age. The character traits and coaching habits developed through simply following the rules will help you (and your opponent) play the game like it’s meant to be played, which ultimately prevents unsafe play.
So you got hurt anyway
What happens when you do get hurt? Margarucci says each of us goes through four psychological stages when an injury occurs – denial, anger, depression and acceptance.
“First, we deny that something’s wrong, or that it’s as bad as we are told,” he said. “Then, we get angry that this happened to us, and depressed that we can’t participate or be with our team.”
So, getting to the acceptance phase is huge, because you’re able to put your full effort into your rehab and recovery, and get back on the ice as soon as you can.